Don’t let your network rain on your SD-WAN
When evaluating your current or new SD-WAN solution, it’s important to prioritize key factors that will set you up for success rather than rain on your parade with failure.
In many ways, this key thought can make or break you. What is “your network”? Whether big or small, your network is the foundation that allows for everything in your business to stay connected. It is also typically overlooked and one of the last things to be upgraded. "Why?" you might you. If installed well, like the foundation of a house, you can forget it's even there. In a house with a secure foundation, your upgrades and improvements tend to be on things like your kitchen or your bathrooms. Much like in business, you focus improvements and upgrades on things like the internet, applications, and/or storage. Unless you are a service provider, your network itself does not typically bring your company direct revenue. And yet everything you need to make your business run depends on it. Historically, networks have been built around a centralized single core. In most cases, now, networks are built around a dual or multi-core for high availability. But even then, there is still a central core to the network that everything in your business goes through. With data centers and cloud resources merging, sometimes within the same data center, as well as costs to utilize both of these becoming more affordable, the need for centralized networks is diminishing. This is where you need to not only rethink your network design and ISP solutions, but also rethink your partners.
Your Remote Locations
With the pandemic last year, we saw a surge to keep as many people working from home as possible. With this change in infrastructure, most companies, schools, and nonprofit entities were not prepared for the shift from centralized to decentralized infrastructure. Let’s dig into what this means. When you sit down at your desk at work, you typically have a couple of options to connect to your business’s network: wired or wireless. There is either a physical connection near your desk to plug into or there is a wireless access point with a physical connection near your desk to connect wirelessly too. From this physical connection, your data typically travels back to an IDF and then to an MDF. If your business only has one location, it stops at this location’s MDF prior to going to the internet. If you have several buildings within your network, then you will have multiple MDFs all coming back to a single, centralized core before going to the internet. This works great when you are sitting at your desk.
But what happens now that you are at home?
You now need a way to create a virtual connection as if you are sitting at your desk. This is done in a few ways. You either have a software-based VPN client (soft client) or you have a piece of hardware that virtually connects back to your business and you plug your device(s) into that. Both of these methods are a type of software defined wired area network (SD-WAN). There are limitations to the soft client on available redundant links, whereas the hardware-based version will, most of the time, allow for multi-ISP connections.
Do you even need all that infrastructure that was built around you sitting at your desk?
If you don’t return from home, you really don’t need that infrastructure at the access layer of your network. Since most networks have been built around you being at work, now that you are home, you must change how to receive your data coming through these virtual connections.
This itself will change how your data now enters the centralized core. And if you only have a single core, this will put a huge load on the internet connection going into your business since it was sized and purchased only for internet usage. Even with multiple cores, these circuits were never sized for this amount of load. This is where you need a SD-WAN appliance. And how you conduct your business will determine which brand or model you should go with because it isn’t cost effective to increase your single ISP. It's important to be creative in your approach with these new costs. With the advancements in security around your edge, most SD-WAN appliances today will leverage your existing firewalls to help protect your data. SD-WAN appliances can be both physical and virtual allowing you to have a limitless, decentralized footprint offloading data traffic intelligently and utilizing all of your available internet connective efficiently, making this new work from home possible and affordable.
So remember, you need a strong network foundation to build a strong remote SD-WAN future!