Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) was the dominant WAN solution of the 2000s. However, times have changed and in the late 2010s, modern enterprise WANs create challenges MPLS simply cannot keep up with.
MPLS lacks the agility required to keep up with cloud workloads and as more and more data is sent over the WAN, the high costs of MPLS bandwidth become a bigger hurdle for businesses to overcome.
For these reasons, we have seen SD-WAN surge in popularity over the last decade. SD-WAN is more agile than MPLS and enables enterprises to use economical public Internet connections, making it better suited for the modern global enterprise. However, not all SD-WAN solutions are created equal. Some solutions are incapable of meeting the enterprise reliability demands while others simply aren’t complete enough to meet the needs of large enterprise WANs without adding prohibitive amounts of complexity.
Fortunately, next-generation SD-WANs, also known as SDWaaS (SD-WAN as a Service), are capable of meeting the demands of the modern global enterprise and improving WAN performance while also reducing costs and complexity.
In this piece, we’ll explore 5 specific benefits of SDWaaS and explain how it is uniquely capable of serving the modern enterprise WAN at a global scale.
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Benefits of SD-WAN as a Service
1. Improved performance
With a dependence on cloud services for critical business functions and the prevalence of bandwidth-intensive latency-sensitive apps (think UCaaS) in the modern enterprise, performance is a must. While MPLS offers reliable performance from one static site to another within the same WAN, cloud workloads are often plagued by the “trombone routing” problem. Trombone routing refers to the inefficient backhauling that many organizations must do to cloud-bound traffic for security and auditing purposes. As opposed to sending cloud-bound traffic directly its destination, it is first routed to a central location on the WAN (usually HQ or a corporate data center) and then on to the public Internet. This degrades performance, and can make using apps like Office 365 and SharePoint in the cloud difficult or impossible.
While DIY appliance-based SD-WAN resolves the trombone routing problem, it comes with all the performance concerns of the public Internet and no SLAs or means to supplement performance. This can be a deal-breaker for a global enterprise with a priority on uptime.
SDWaaS gives organizations the best of both worlds by addressing the trombone routing problem and offering enterprises an SLA-backed global backbone. This private backbone is supported by multiple Tier-1 ISPs and includes PoPs (Points of Presence) across the globe. Further, SDWaaS offers enterprises features like QoS (quality of service), Forward Error Correction (FEC), and Packet Loss Compensation to further enhance WAN performance.
2. Increased agility
The flexibility advantage SD-WAN has over MPLS is clear to most enterprises today, and that is no different when comparing MPLS to SDWaaS. MPLS simply wasn’t designed for agility.
So, what makes SDWaaS different from other SD-WAN solutions when it comes to agility? The converged nature of the WAN when you use SDWaaS. A full network security stack is built-in to the network with SDWaaS making secure connections from remote sites or mobile users are a breeze. Conversely, many alternative SD-WAN solutions struggle to offer practical solutions for connecting mobile users.
Further, provisioning new sites with SDWaaS can occur in minutes or hours as opposed to days or weeks with other WAN solutions. What this means for the CTO of a modern enterprise is simple: the WAN should never have to be the bottleneck in the provisioning of a new site.
3. Reduced complexity
Security appliances, WAN optimizers, VPNs, and elaborate configurations add complexity and cost to the WAN. They also make it harder to maintain and scale. While these are commonplace with networks that rely on MPLS or DIY SD-WAN solutions, SDWaaS helps enterprises do away with this complexity.
This is again because of the integrated nature of SDWaaS. With a built-in network security stack that includes features like Next-Gen Firewall (NGFW), Managed Threat Detection and Response (MDR), Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), and anti-malware, SDWaaS helps organizations do away with complex webs of appliances and difficult to manage configurations. Not only does this streamline workflows and maintenance, it can improve an organization’s overall security posture. When security is baked-in to the WAN, it is easier to implement and enforce.
4. Enhanced reliability
Uptime is a top priority for all modern enterprises. If users aren’t able to connect to the WAN, productivity can come to a screeching halt, leading to significant business impact. Traditionally, one of the arguments against SD-WAN was its dependence on the public Internet and the lack of an SLA. Again, SDWaaS solves this problem. The global private backbone that supports SDWaaS is SLA-backed, giving enterprises the assurance that they need from their WAN connectivity solution.
However, the benefits of SDWaaS from a reliability perspective don’t end there. SDWaaS supports self-healing features, active/active failover, and automatic blackout and brownout detection and response. By detecting not only blackouts, but also brownouts (degradations in performance), SDWaaS enables enterprises to take a proactive approach to WAN monitoring and address performance issues before they become full blown outages.
5. Lower costs
Cost is an important factor to consider when evaluating any solution, and what makes SDWaaS so compelling is that it is able to deliver improved WAN performance at lower costs. SDWaaS is able to deliver cost savings in 3 key ways:
- Lower bandwidth costs – It is no secret MPLS bandwidth is expensive, and SDWaaS enables enterprises to leverage more affordable alternatives without sacrificing reliability.
- Lower capex – As a result of its cloud-based integrated nature, SDWaaS reduces the amount of IT spend enterprises need to allocate to hardware appliances for the WAN, reducing capex.
- Lower opex – Reduced complexity and faster provisioning times means less IT hours need to be focused on maintaining and servicing the WAN. This reduces opex and allows enterprises to focus their human resources on core business tasks instead.
The modern enterprise requires a WAN solution that is reliable, agile, and economical. MPLS and DIY SD-WAN fall short of meeting all these needs. Fortunately, SDWaaS is able to address these challenges and help enterprise future-proof their WAN.