There are no end of philosophers, gurus, and great minds who talk about the beauty of simplicity – but it’s unlikely many of them appreciated quite how important simplicity in IT is.
Whether you’re designing or fault-finding, there’s nothing worse than watching a solution spiral out of control and end up being an overly complex solution you dread coming back to.
So, with this in mind, where’s the beauty in adding another system to your network? Here, we’ll explore what SD WAN can do – and why it can help you work towards a Zen-like state of simplicity when it comes to managing your business network.
What is SD WAN?
There’s a good chance you already appreciate what Wide Area Network (WAN) is if you’re reading this – but for the sake of painting the full SD WAN picture, it’s worth revisiting.
A WAN is a series of devices, connected together – but usually found in different geographical locations. Perhaps the most easily illustrated example is that of a head-office and smaller, regional offices. With a traditional WAN, you central office would house your main IT infrastructure – and, usually using internet connections, you would have your regional offices connected, with users accessing applications housed on your central servers.
Since a central head-office normally houses your major IT infrastructure, it also normally houses an in-house IT team. While your applications can be delivered over an internet connection, hands-on support can’t – so your IT team will often have to get in the car (or sometimes on a plane!) and work on the devices in your regional offices.
So, what is SD WAN and how does it fit around this?
Well, an SD WAN is a ‘Software Defined Wide Area Network’ – essentially, a software system that controls every device and system on your network. It’ll work with 99.99% of network components out there – and it acts as an overlay, rather than a physical device that needs to be integrated into your network.
How does SD WAN streamline your IT operation?
We’ve already talked about how time-consuming and labour intensive it can be to get your IT teams to different locations to get hands-on with your remote network devices – so SD WAN chalks up a bit time and resource saving win in this regard.
Whether you’re looking to provisioning new sites, or you simply need someone to throw some physical switches and establish some connections, it’s rarely something you can have done quickly. SD WAN potentially changes this – as even settings that require physical switching can be controlled through a central log-in.
If you’ve got limited IT resources (and let’s face it – who doesn’t?) – then the idea of keeping your people in-house and at their desks as much as possible is certainly appealing – especially if they carry out support desk duties too. That said, this isn’t the only stream-lining that SD WAN allows for, as systems also allow for extensive Class of Service control too.
Controlling Class of Service across your network
If you run different types of application across your network, then Class of Service (CoS) matters.
In essence, CoS parameters dictate how different types of data are prioritised over your network. For example, email data rarely requires the same kind of instantaneous delivery you might require if you were holding a video conference with your board members. The thing is, as standard, your network doesn’t allocate priorities to data, so email data will be carried with the same priority as your video call.
The trouble with this is the sensitivity of certain applications to the dropping of data. So, your email service won’t blink if an email takes a few extra seconds to deliver – but your video call might fall-off completely if data is interrupted for more than a few seconds.
As such, your Class of Service systems allow you to flag certain application’s data as being a priority. At the moment, SD WAN doesn’t allow for the same micromanagement of data in the way an MPLS system might, but it’s certainly a more efficient way of making sure your key systems stay up when compared to luck alone!
How does CoS help to streamline operations?
We know how the appropriate CoS settings will help to make sure important video calls aren’t dropped – but how does being able to control your CoS help right across your network?
Well, whether or not it will somewhat depends on the applications and functions your network controls. For example, if you use central applications or cloud-based services, it’s essential that your systems (even those at regional sites) are all working with the same up-to-the-second data.
Of course, working from the same data is vital – but if you rewind somewhat, you’ll find that simply being able to access data in a timely manner is one of your customer’s cornerstone expectations of your service.
Frankly, your customers and clients don’t care if your operations are working thousands of miles from where their data is help – they simply need to be able to talk to someone about their needs as quickly as possible. Using SD WAN to make sure your CoS settings allow for this is a sure-fire way to make sure your customer service provision is running as smoothly as possible too.
Bringing SD WAN into your business
If SD WAN feels like it could be a good fit for your business needs, then it’s worth thinking about whether you’ve got the expertise to get the system up and running in-house or whether you should consider outsourcing the setup to an external provider.
The choice is yours – and it’ll depend on your team’s experience – but if you do decide to outsource the project, it’s important to make sure you’re going to be working with the team that fully understand your business needs and how SD WAN is going to best work for you.
You might even decide that you’d like control of your SD WAN system to fall into the remit of the company who have helped you get the system up and running – after all, geography is no longer a problem, so you can search far and wide to find an SD WAN provider who fits the bill.