SD-WAN: Beyond The Branch Office

Software-defined WAN can streamline a variety of enterprise applications, including physical security and unified communications.

Jay Akin

October 21, 2016

3 Min Read
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For organizations adopting software-defined WAN, connecting branch offices has been the priority. Few have considered other applications where SD-WAN can be applied. Here are some tips for evaluating your network infrastructure and identifying other applications that could benefit from this technology, thus further reducing the cost and complexity of your network.  

Let’s start with might not be a very obvious application where SD-WAN can be useful: video surveillance and physical security. Just think of the number of cases where a large organization has myriad sites, all with multiple that require monitoring. In the simplest terms, SD-WAN devices will connect all cameras to a cloud network, enabling the organization to monitor all feeds from a single location, while also eliminating the need for a wired network connection.

Not only does this consolidate the resources required for monitoring, but it also makes camera placement more flexible, reaching locations unavailable with a physical wired feed. While wireless cameras are already seeing a great deal of deployment, SD-WANs are different in that they can bond multiple low-cost internet connections together in order to create a single “bonded” connection that is resilient, high-performing and affordable.

This flexibility extends to other physical security applications, including smart infrastructure where alarms, locks, monitoring sensors, and more are managed via a cloud service. These kinds of operations management systems are increasingly using either in-house or third-party remote management in order to consolidate monitoring resources. Regardless, SD-WAN systems  provide a flexible and cost-effective means of connecting many of these often low-bandwidth applications over a few inexpensive DSL or cellular lines.

This scenario of many sensors connected to the cloud of course includes Internet of Things solutions for various industrial applications. The ease of being able to manage, monitor, and operate all the connected sensors over a SD-WAN gateway can simplify operations and reduce cost.

Other enterprise-class applications that could benefit from SD-WAN systems are unified communications, both on-premises as well as in the cloud. Combining voice, video, and collaboration applications across multiple sites could result in some significant telecom charges for any organization. Optimizing traffic – from low latency for VoIP to high-bandwidth for video – will always pose a challenge for network admins leveraging these kinds of applications. However, most SD-WAN systems provide a relatively easy means to coordinate traffic effectively in order to maximize reliable performance, even for demanding applications like UC.

With Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) , SD-WAN offers the opportunity not only to streamline and automate the branch office routers, but also some cloud-based backend services, such as SIP trunking and video servers by taking advantage of the centralized management capabilities of the SD-WAN. For example, enterprises can roll out a cloud-based IP-PBX service to various locations since managing the WAN connections onto the appropriate SIP trunks can be done via the SD-WAN.

Regardless of the cloud service or application you choose to add to your existing SD-WAN infrastructure, it’s clear that in the era of the cloud service and software-defined networking, the WAN has rapidly become the performance bottleneck for most branch offices. SD-WAN promises to be a solution for this bottleneck for the foreseeable future.

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