Bringing VPN services up to cloud speed

It’s almost a cliché to say that The Cloud is changing everything, but there are plenty of examples demonstrating the truth behind it. One example that is starting to make itself known is enterprise WANs.

Like just about everything else, enterprise IT is moving to the cloud, whether public, private or hybrid. This is already starting to have an impact on their WANs, which require greater performance to handle latency-sensitive and mission-critical workloads, as well as business continuity between data centers. IT managers are also now having to think of ways to integrate cloud-sourced services into their WAN environments without sacrificing performance, availability, or security.

In turn, this trend is impacting telcos who offer WAN services such as IP-VPN to enterprise customers. When IP-VPNs emerged 15 years ago, they were designed for the static IT world in play at the time - stagnant applications, stable office branches, etc. And they worked well. But the migration to the cloud has changed that - applications and bandwidth needs are more dynamic, and branches come and go, particularly in the retail and financial worlds. Telcos who want to keep serving that market need to offer VPN services that can keep up with their customers’ needs.

See Also

Telecom Asia e-Brief: SD-WAN
SD-WANs: Answering the demands of the cloud-based IT ecosystem
Evolution of Wide Area Networking

An emerging solution to do just that is software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), which riffs on the concept of SDN (software-defined networking) in that it decouples the control plane from the data plane and centralizes it as a software application. SDN does this for data centers (and increasingly telecoms networks). SD-WAN does it for enterprise WANs. Or, as analyst firm Gartner has put it: SDN is an architecture; SD-WAN is a product.

The basic result: IP-VPNs will be able to operate at cloud-speed. And you’re going to be seeing a lot more of it, primarily because enterprise customers are already starting to demand it.  

Easy and cost-effective

SD-WAN is a relatively recent market development, preceded by the existence of hybrid WAN architectures, according to IDC. SD-WANs essentially leverage those hybrid WANs, but incorporate “a centralized, application-based policy controller, analytics for application and network visibility, a software overlay that abstracts underlying networks, and an optional SD-WAN forwarder that together provides intelligent path selection across WAN links.” 

The basic benefits: cost-effective delivery of business apps, flexibility to handle the evolving operational requirements of branches and remote sites, optimized software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud-based services, and improved branch-IT efficiency via automation. 

For carriers offering VPN services, it also means easier and cost-effective service provisioning. Rather than send an engineer to each site, for example, telcos can courier the box to the branch manager, who can then plug it into whatever access connection (or connections) the branch is using - private line, DSL, LTE, etc -and run the VPN service up over the top of it.

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