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SD-WAN: Ensuring Network Continuity

February 2020 by Alan Stewart–Brown, VP of EMEA at Opengear

The Software Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) market is rapidly expanding. According to a recent report by MarketsandMarkets, the global SD-WAN market size is expected to grow from USD 1.0 billion in 2018 to USD 4.1 billion by 2023, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 32.7% during the forecast period.

In fact, SD-WAN has rapidly become the standard in enterprise deployments. An SD-WAN network can manage multiple types of connections, from LTE to broadband to multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) links. This means that traffic can be routed over the most cost-effective services, such as broadband. Services that require high quality, such as video or voice, or high security, with sensitive information, can still be routed over remaining MPLS lines, although many enterprises are freeing themselves of MPLS entirely. Because of this flexibility, SD-WANs can dramatically lessen the cost and minimise the complexity of traditional WANs

However, the use of SD-WAN can also introduce points of failure to the branch office network. In traditional branch networking, often branch routers go for years without needing any intervention like configuration changes or firmware updates. But SD-WAN routers are more sophisticated and run a larger software stack. Firmware updates are common which means that there are many more opportunities for things to go wrong.

Updates can leave organisations vulnerable to potential downtime; and visibility blind spots can decrease the effectiveness of deployments, creating security challenges. In a SD-WAN network, for example, it is difficult for engineers using traditional network management tools to find unauthorised IoT devices. Added to this, the fact that SD-WAN doesn’t provide the visibility that organisations need to ensure these IT applications work as required, makes it equally difficult to monitor or troubleshoot sites and underlay networks. And while Cloud-Based Provisioning makes provisioning and configuration of an SD-WAN router easier, ultimately it is still in-band management, with all access to your network dependent on the same router.

To summarise: although SD-WAN brings with it a new flexibility for edge computing, there is also a need for engineers to remotely manage on-site devices. A single event can cause failures in multiple circuits. In short, SD-WAN brings many benefits but it also poses challenges to traditional network management which expects constant connectivity.

Finding a Solution

In this context, the latest smart out-of-band management tools offer a positive way forward. Not only can they provide an alternative path to devic¬es located at remote sites when the primary network is down, helping mitigate the risk that SD-WAN can bring, they can also help facilitate access to edge infrastructure to ensure business continuity. Moreover, using a separate management plane solution allows organisations to securely monitor and access all devices without impacting normal operations.

In addition to providing access when an issue arises, SD-WAN also enables organisations to improve day to day operations. Proactive monitoring enables staff to pre-emptively recognize and remediate issues to reduce the need for truck rolls.

Designed to provide the needed resilience at the edge, Smart Out-of-Band by Opengear is scalable, providing the ability to manage infrastructure at distributed sites. Troubleshooting and remediation at the network’s edge enables organisations to detect faults before they become failures which minimises downtime and operating costs.

This resilient backup connectivity allows enterprises to reduce the time-consuming nature of dispatching engineers to data centre sites to make configuration changes and trouble-shoot issues for business continuity. Smart Out-of-Band and Failover to Cellular™ ensures that SD-WAN continues to operate when all other circuits are unavailable, providing the always-on access needed at the edge.

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