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The promise of SD-WAN: towards highly intelligent, real-time networks. Takeaways from the N-sight of 04/12/18


Date:04/12/2018


SD-WAN may not be new on the technology market, but it remains an enigma to many companies.  Yet it holds a lot of promise, by offering:

  • Simplicity
  • Time savings
  • Cost-efficiency
  • Performance
  • Security.

We took a closer look at this solution and explored the opportunities, benefits and potential pitfalls. Our speakers gave us an overview of the possibilities, and their own insights.  And we zoomed in on the latest market evolutions and security aspects.

 

The presentations from the event are available for Beltug members (after log-in):

 

SD-WAN beyond the hype

First up was Gert Torfs, Senior Consultant at Tam Tam Consulting, who described the evolution of WAN, from leased lines and low capacity, through MPLS, to today's SD-WAN (slide 6).

 

When comparing the challenges CIOs face, past versus present, we see many things haven’t really changed: budget constraints, tight deadlines, need for more bandwidth and high agility, etc.  But the enterprise environment has completely transformed, Gert stated. And especially with cloud and highly consumed internet services, the need for solid internet bandwidth is ever stronger.

 

Slide 10 gives a few definitions in the world of SD-WAN. To help explain the SD-WAN concept, an analogy could prove useful: as you drive from Antwerp to Brussels, your car = the data and your smart GPS = the controller.  On the way, your controller can decide to reroute your car/package/data - through local back roads, for example.

Gert sees several benefits:

  • Scalability
  • Performance
  • Agility
  • Security
  • User experience
  • Resiliency

 

Gert compared the situation of a traditional network to an SD-WAN-enabled network (slide 12). Choose your business case wisely when considering SD-WAN: you'll only obtain a cost saving if you actually reduce the MPLS bandwidth.

 

In spite of the numerous benefits, there are also a few challenges to take into account, specifically when it comes to:

  • Standardisation
  • Interoperability
  • New Technology
  • SD-WAN vendors
  • Customer legacy

(Slide 16 offers details.)

 

Gert also laid out 10 steps to follow when moving towards SD-WAN to ensure a successful project (slide 22). To conclude, he pointed out that, in most cases, SD-WAN is the new normal and the optimal answer for a solid network.

 

SD-WAN and VNS in the real world

 

Next, we dove deeper into the matter with Peter Konings, Director - Integrated Network & Security Services at Verizon.  Peter also used an analogy to describe the challenges enterprises face today (slide 2), in this case public transportation, which brings people from 'where they are not' to 'where they don't want to be', and annoying them in the process.  To disrupt this process, you need the freedom to think outside of your box: for example, by motivating people to walk, rather than take the bus.

 

When guiding his customers to a successful SD-WAN project, for a Network-as-a-Service project Peter stressed that the underlaying network is just as important as the SD-WAN overlay.  It is also important to give customers their choice of technology, with open software, open platform and open hardware (slide 5 offers an overview of options and vendors). With the lack of standardisation in the world of networks, SD-WAN can provide a valuable answer in certain situations.

 

After going over a few user cases (and the solutions these companies adopted), it became clear that cloud is an important driver for this topic. The future holds very important promise: with all of a company’s information aligned in the network, and self-learning, highly intelligent, fully automated and real-time networks are achieved.

 

Peter wrapped up with a few key takeaways:

  • It's not about the technology, it's about understanding what you want to achieve
  • A physical VNF is not the same as a virtual VNF
  • This change is so complex and so big, industries need to be ready to share and be open (i.e. the millennial approach).

 

Moving to a next-generation telecom solution

 

We moved from theory to practice with Luc Verbist, Group Director ICT for Greenyard.  With 88 sites worldwide, Greenyard is a global company that imports and sells fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables.  First Luc described the current ICT situation, with its many challenges and hurdles (25 different telco operators, security hurdles, 17 different ERP systems, etc.) and the company's strategy to optimise global ICT.

 

Greenyard sites are generally located in rural areas (close to the farmers), which creates some telecom connection challenges (slide 4). To choose an SD-WAN solution, Greenyard defined primary and secondary objectives and translated these into an RFI-RFP process:

  • Find a solid partner for a managed data network infrastructure (Europe and US)
  • Enable VoIP communication across all Greenyard locations
  • Reduce the total cost of ownership of European data and voice network and services (TCO 5 Years)
  • Guarantee operational continuity during projects and roll-out of the new infrastructure
  • Select a solution offering good performance and stable connections
  • Future-proof the solution with sufficient bandwidth (on demand) for SaaS, video and VoIP services
  • Reduce the number of single points of failures from farm land to the network core
  • Minimise the ICT workload for local employees
  • Enable secure, high bandwidth and low latency internet break-outs across Europe.

 

Greenyard then performed a study on the offered solutions, with both in-house experts and external consultants. The company ultimately chose a GTT solution including a Managed Data Network and SD-WAN. A managed security layer on the WAN level will support inter-site security and service operation, combined with centralised firewalls.

 

In the future, a 'Managed Voice' component will be added, which will probably become a hybrid Microsoft Teams solution.

 

To wrap up, Luc highlighted the lessons learned and the current project status (slide 12).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

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