The software defined WAN (SD WAN)

Behind the smoke and mirrors of SD WAN

Unify Issue 4

Information Technology, a sector that already has more than a fair share of acronyms, seems to have an unquenchable thirst for creating new ones. Among those recently coined and now increasingly being used in boardrooms is SD WAN, the Software Defined Wide Area Network.

SD-WAN is being touted as the silver bullet for networking. According to the technology companies that have crowded into the technology space, it will enable enterprises right across the spectrum from government departments to commercial organisations in nearly every vertical market to do things more quickly and more efficiently.

However, the reality is much more nuanced; clouded by the smoke being blown and mirrors being angled by 40-plus vendors, all with their own particular commercial positions to defend, and so far without the emergence of any obvious leader.

Away from the hubbub, Gamma has been taking a cold hard look at SD WAN. It has upgraded and re engineered its business only data network with the latest core switches in readiness. The service will enable customers to tap into the benefits of SD WAN without exposing themselves to the risks that can attend very early adopters of leading edge technology.

What is SD WAN?

SD WAN is an acronym for software-defined networking in a wide area network (WAN). This simplifies the management and operation of a Wide Area Network by disassociating the networking components from its control mechanism. 

Key points

  • SD-WAN stands for Software Defined Wide Area Networking
  • It is an application of SDN technology applied to WAN connections
  • This technology aims to give total visibility and control over the network

Gamma sales director Alex Ayers predicts that SD-WAN will prove to be a valuable addition to the networking toolbox for many organisations, but that scale of real world deployments will be driven by use-cases, not by hype.

“The pragmatic way of thinking about SD-WAN is as an alternative way of better connecting to some applications. As more and more applications get delivered from the public cloud so will the use of SD-WAN increase, but it is by no means the universal silver bullet that some would have us believe. For every one or two organisations where it does have a strong use-case there will be others where it doesn’t.

For example, in the UK the main difference between private and public networks is an IP address as it’s largely the same underlying network. In that context, SD-WAN is less about managing infrastructure and more about managing the delivery of applications.

As more of them get served up via the public cloud rather than from private data centres, SD-WAN will allow us to dynamically change how we route traffic. For some businesses it will be an unnecessary complication, but for those where it does make sense we see it as a useful enrichment of the service we can offer our customers.”

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The pragmatic way of thinking about SD-WAN is as an alternative way of better connecting to some applications, but it is by no means the universal silver bullet that some would have us believe.

Alex Ayers

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New architecture – new way of networking

Software as a service and cloud-based storage have already virtualised two of the three key IT elements making them ultra-fast and cheap to deliver and configure, but the third element, networking, is still based around intelligent hardware platforms.

Many of these are proprietary to some significant degree, and require specialist attendance for configuration and maintenance with all that implies for steeper capital and operational expenditure, and sheer inflexibility. SD-WAN proposes a centralised software intelligence entity that commands simple distributed policy engines and acts as single logical switch for applications that want to use the network – an architecture that has been named NFV or Network Function Virtualisation. SD-WAN exploits NFV to deliver networking as-a-service, promising to enable the dynamic networking needs of enterprises to be met much more quickly.

Ayers says it is important to correct the misapprehension that SDWAN is somehow able to conjour up temporary bandwidth out of thin air.

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You will still have to have the underlying bandwidth. What SD WAN will do is enable you to use that existing resource more effectively and attune this to your application strategy.

Alex Ayers

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How might this work in practice? Gamma’s product director David Doherty:

“Say you have a retail business and you are planning a major refresh of your web site, or a short-term promotional campaign that you think will generate a real spike in data traffic.

We can ensure that the network responds much more effectively…in a way that actively supports business needs.

Many of these are proprietary to some significant degree, and require specialist attendance for configuration and maintenance with all that implies for steeper capital and operational expenditure, and sheer inflexibility.

SD-WAN proposes a centralised software intelligence entity that commands simple distributed policy engines and acts as single logical switch for applications that want to use the network – an architecture that has been named NFV or Network Function Virtualisation. SD-WAN exploits NFV to deliver networking as-a-service, promising to enable the dynamic networking needs of enterprises to be met much more quickly.”

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SD-WAN exploits NFV to deliver networking as-a-service, promising to enable the dynamic networking needs of enterprises to be met much more quickly.

David Doherty

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Networking in Action: Winning Formula for West Country Legal Firm

Porter Dodson case study

Unify Issue 4

Porter Dodson, one of the UK’s top 200 law firms, selected Gamma for SIP Trunks over a dedicated Ethernet circuit. The move to SIP was seamless during an office relocation and now provides clarity and depth of billing data, as well as improved resilience and customer service.

Call costs are down by as much as 87%

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While looking for a SIP provider it soon became clear that Gamma was widely recognised as the market leader. We spoke to other vendors but some knew less about SIP than we did, while others just felt like analogue players out of their depth.

Since moving across we’ve had some spectacular results. We’ve now got a first class solution with reduced fixed costs and call costs down by as much as 87%. Customer service is much better too. A lot of providers are very responsive until you sign the order. Gamma is the only company I’ve dealt with that offered and continues to offer a consistent, solid service.

Jay Ralph, IT operations manager

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