In a digital world, technology is at the center of what we do and network performance has become inextricably linked with organizational productivity. On the surface the idea of SD-WAN Orchestration is pretty simple; use a centralized cloud portal to improve network visibility and management. The benefit is much bigger than lower IT support costs, it’s a more agile and responsive network that accelerates innovation and drives higher productivity across the board.
The challenge is that every SD-WAN solution makes sweeping claims about orchestration, and the marketing jargon can be quite confusing. Once you cut through the SEO catch phrases like “extensible networks” and “policy abstraction”, what are the tangible benefits of SD-WAN orchestration?
What’s different about SD-WAN Orchestration?
We must adapt in order to survive. In a technology-driven world, the ability to adapt is limited by how fast network updates can be deployed. Legacy networks are slow to adapt because hardware installations and router re-configurations take time. Skilled IT workers typically roll-out network changes on a site-by-site basis, a costly endeavor which is done on a timetable that takes weeks or even months.
SD-WAN Orchestration provides greater network agility, where centralized software updates can be deployed across all SD-WAN sites at the same time. A recent Gartner report comparison on TCO for Cisco ISR routers shows that SD-WAN solutions cuts labor and management time by and estimated 90%. This efficiency gain on router maintenance enables your skilled IT workers to focus on more important tasks like serving customers or pursuing strategic technology initiatives.
What applications are Orchestrated?
All SD-WANs are not created equal, and the architecture of your SD-WAN will dictate what type of network traffic can actually be orchestrated. Premise-based SD-WAN solutions are deployed through branch CPEs and data centers, which limits their scope to only orchestrate WAN applications in private clouds and WAN traffic moving between SD-WAN sites. The challenge is cloud adoption is shifting traffic patterns to the point where about 70% of your branch traffic is likely moving beyond the WAN toward the internet and public cloud applications.
When your mission-critical applications run in the cloud, network access becomes a prerequisite for knowledge worker productivity. This means orchestrating WAN traffic alone is not enough, organizations need a solution that orchestrates both private and public cloud applications. Optimizing cloud applications requires more than just SD-WAN branch appliance, it requires an SDN overlay network architecture with cloud gateway controllers that bring your network to the cloud. Third party hosted applications like Microsoft Office 365 and Skype for Business are often considered mission-critical, SD-WAN orchestration should provide visibility and control across all these types of applications which are deliver through public clouds.
What network functions are Orchestrated?
Centralized network configuration is not a new phenomenon, but SD-WAN orchestration expands this concept through Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). Depending on your SD-WAN solution, various Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) can all be managed through a single SD-WAN orchestration platform. Common functions include cloud provisioning for branch CPEs, multi-link WAN routing and WAN encryption, but some vendors offer a whole lot more. SD-WAN orchestration should enable custom configurations for application QoS priority, link failover sensitivity, and even traffic compression to optimize your SD-WAN experience.
SD-WAN overlay networks with SDN gateway controllers provide work like cloud on-ramps with additional VNFs that manage inbound traffic moving toward the branch and long-haul transport moving between distant sites. At the branch, SD-WAN CPEs can include VNFs for NAT policies, branch firewalls, VLAN configurations, and even WiFi or VoIP provisioning. In rare cases, soluton like VINO SD-WAN even extend orchestration to remote workers, mobile users and IoT devices.
Who does the Orchestration?
Selecting the right SD-WAN solution can be a challenge, but the list of potential vendors gets much shorter once you choose between the Do-it-Yourself (DIY) and Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) options. DIY solutions are geared toward larger enterprise IT teams with the depth of resources to deploy and manage their own SD-WAN. In this model, the internal IT team will need to install and manage the orchestration platform, in addition to the ongoing monitoring and management of the SD-WAN. There are other hidden DIY costs to consider, such as SD-WAN certification training, installation and management of the SD-WAN cloud infrastructure, and WAN transport between distant sites is usually sold separately.
The NaaS option is on the other end of the spectrum, offering a comprehensive managed SD-WAN solution in a pure OPEX model. The service provider takes accountability for the SD-WAN orchestration, which frees up additional IT resources. VINO SD-WAN is NaaS solution that simplifies and accelerates SD-WAN deployments by leveraging service provider expertise to professionally design and install a customized SD-WAN solution. NaaS also includes the SDN cloud infrastructure and backbone WAN transport, and some even offer network SLAs to ensure customer success. In the NaaS model, CIOs will still rely on SD-WAN orchestration to provide network analytics and reporting for site availability, application usage, security threats and user quality-of-experience.
Underneath the catchy marketing jargon you can uncover plenty of value in SD-WAN Orchestration, but it does vary based on your implementation. Choosing between DIY and NaaS will dictate whether you’ll need to deploy the SD-WAN orchestration platform yourself, and how much IT time will be spent using it.
Operational efficiency can be increased by a wide range of VNFs that enable orchestration of branch networks and even cloud gateway controllers. Don’t underestimate the importance of SD-WAN remote access solutions for home office, mobile workers and IoT devices since these are all trending upward. While all SD-WAN solutions address WAN traffic, organizations running mission-critical applications in public clouds will require a solution that orchestrates both WAN traffic and SaaS applications delivered from public clouds.