Mark III Systems Blog

Paperclip Chronicles “SD-WAN”

SD-WAN… The New Normal

What is it? Do I have it? Do I need it?

WAN needs have increased due to the surge in remote working and learning. Most companies connect networks and locations using MPLS. MPLS can be very expensive and, by itself, can lack essential redundancy. SD-WAN, however, has evolved to meet the rise in connectivity demands without straining budgets.

Discussing technology is sometimes easier with an analogy.  An example that comes to mind when discussing remote connections and SD-WAN is a paper clip and rubber band. A paper clip in its original form cannot successfully secure cables for storage/transport purposes. A rubber band, if tied, could help but in a cumbersome way. There’s tying & untying with breakdown over time. However, if you combine a paper clip and a rubber band, you can dynamically bundle and release cables quickly and easily for storage and transport.

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN connects resources over a WAN link with software, automatically securing networks and locations together while maintaining flexibility. It’s the rubber band. Using internet providers, MPLS connects networks and locations as a service. It’s the paper clip. SD-WAN can effectively do the job. Add it to your MPLS and you have an innovative, cost-effective, redundant solution to optimize and control increased WAN data flow. SD-WAN can utilize your existing MPLS as primary, augmenting it with redundancy through less expensive internet connections, giving a more stable and reliable solution.

Do I already have SD-WAN?

When working with and for companies, I have found that when talking about SD-WAN most don’t fully understand what it is and if they have it.  I believe the reason for this is SD-WAN wasn’t a common industry term until 2014.

If you are using VPN and wireless access points (AP) then you already have SD-WAN. VPN tunnels and/or connecting wirelessly to an AP encapsulates the data session.  This encapsulation creates a secure and trusted tunnel through a network allowing for reduced overhead on the intermediate hops only required to forward the traffic instead of inspecting the traffic which adds overhead “latency”.

Other common uses of SD-WAN today are with laptops that can VPN into a network via software soft clients without a hardware device at their remote location. As well as most access points can be setup or reconfigured from a campus AP to work as a remote AP establishing the VPN connection automatically.

Do I need SD-WAN?

SD-WAN isn’t going anywhere and as we continue the push to moving applications to the cloud the demand for SD-WAN is going to increase and will need solutions to adapt much like the paperclip.  So yes, I would say not only do you need it you need to truly understand it.