SD-WANs offer more flexibility, agility and affordability in branch office networks, and there's a crowded field of vendors giving customers a lot of options.
Joe Tan knew he was going to have to improve his company's WAN environments.
Devcon Construction is a commercial building company based in Milpitas, part of Northern California's Silicon Valley. But it has dozens of construction offices and remote sites big and small throughout Northern California.
Connectivity to the central office was important, but the company had to rely on whatever options were available at the individual sites. Some could get Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) while others needed to use T1 connections, 4G wireless devices or even other technologies.
The patchwork of disparate connections created an array of problems for Devcon, from high costs and security concerns to traffic bottlenecks, network management and visibility issues, not to mention high time demands on a small IT staff, according to Tan, Devcon's director of IT.
Audio and video collaboration was difficult because transferring large files could result in high bandwidth consumption and slow performance. Meanwhile, having service providers set up MPLS connections could be expensive and time-consuming.
"We have a lot of construction sites in Northern California, and they all need to connect back to our headquarters," Tan told eWEEK
. "Reliable connectivity is really important for our business to run."
Tan started investigating technology options for the company's wide-area network (WAN) about two years ago. About 18 months ago, he started talking with VeloCloud Networks, one of a growing number of vendors in the rapidly emerging software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) market.
Devcon ran a proof-of-concept with the VeloCloud technology and has since standardized its WAN environment on the vendor's products.
VeloCloud's software products run on standard x86 systems in a company's branch offices or remote sites as well as in the cloud by connecting to VeloCoud Gateways housed in cloud data centers worldwide run by Amazon Web Services, Equinix and others.
The gateways ensure that all applications and workloads are delivered via the most optimized data paths and enable network services to be delivered from the cloud. VeloCloud Edges are zero-touch appliances at the remote and branch sites that provide secure connectivity to applications and services. They also offer such features as deep application recognition, performance metrics, virtual network functions (VNF) hosting and quality-of-service (QoS) capabilities.
Centralized management is provided by VeloCloud Orchestrator for installation, configuration, one-click provisioning of virtual services and real-time monitoring.
For Tan, it meant more control over the WAN environments—from management to security to high performance—and the ability to address issues centrally rather than having to constantly send tech pros to multiple sites, a significant win for a company that has an IT staff of five people.
"For a company that doesn't have a lot of IT people, this was a quick and easy way to get reliable and powerful WAN service and not have to spend a lot on infrastructure," he said.
The Cloud Drives Interest in SD-WAN
For much of the past decade or more, not much new had happened in the enterprise networking space, the WAN included.
That's changed over the past couple of years, as network virtualization—including software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV)—has come to the forefront to help enterprises address the challenges brought by such trends as the cloud, big data, mobility and the Internet of things (IoT).
More recently, innovation in the network has spilled over to the WAN with enterprises and service providers looking to SD-WAN technologies to make their networks more flexible, agile and affordable.
The WAN over the decades has relied on various connectivity protocols, from Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) to MPLS. However, none of these options were made for a cloud-centric world.