What is SDWAN?

21 Aug 2020 in

Jess with Blush Technology Group discusses SD-WAN. This video is an overview including why you may want it for your business or home office, some commonly asked questions and topics to consider if you're looking to add SD-WAN to your stack. This is SD-WAN for real life!


Hi guys I'm Jessica Jorgenson I'm the principal partner at blush Technology Group and today I wanted to talk to you a little bit about SD-WAN. So SD-WAN has gotten a lot of notoriety lately based on its number one priority, which is to stabilize your internet connection, which has come in super handy with the almost 85 million Americans who are now working from some sort of remote office or home office environment.

So I wanted to take a minute just to chat with you guys about what SD-WAN is. Am I gonna get super technical? Cause that's boring! Also I will do my best not to get completely nerdy with the terms that I'm talking about. So anyway SD-WAN, so SD-WAN is Software Defined wide area network.

So, Software Defined meaning that the magic, if you will, is controlled by software, not unusual in today's terms by any shape of the imagination. And WAN, which is wide area network, which let's just say, identify is however you're bringing the Internet to wherever you are. Alright, that can also include a multitude of options, which we can chat about a little bit as well. So SD-WAN has become very popular in the last few years because it it's done a couple of things. It has replaced some traditional telephony solutions that were low bandwidth, high cost, right that doesn't sound like fun, in exchange for flexibility customization, much higher bandwidth, and security.

Right so I'm gonna dig into that a little bit. I am definitely going to talk to you guys about why SD-WAN has such popularity right now, based on what it can do for either your brick-and-mortar office or your home office. Maybe more importantly, right now to kind of help with the stability and some of that noise. And I'm also going to give you a few tips to consider before you have an SD-WAN in conversation or perhaps during an SD-WAN in conversation so like I said I'm gonna do my best not to get super nerdy with it. If I'm using acronyms that don't make sense, please leave me some notes in the comments so I can start to refine my videos and make them more user friendly.

So what is SD-WAN anyway? Okay so I gave you the definition of the term so I'm gonna read you something really quickly, my computer's right here, just the the definition right. So SD-WAN works by separating the applications from the underlying network services.

Okay and it uses a policy based software overlay. What does that mean? Well there are two components explained in this particular sentence. Number one is the network side of it. So that's the way inside of it, the network side of it, if I say circuit, Internet, bandwidth, whatever, all of those things are equal to the same: which is the network, which is how you get the Internet to you the applications that it separates from the network. In this SD-WAN environment are the things that you might use like your CRM, your voice over IP hosted phones, your zoom meetings, your you know go to webinars, your other collaboration clients that perhaps are a piece of your unified communications the service package from your phone provider.

All of the applications including  Netflix and Hulu and Disney Plus and and the things that we have become very accustomed using in our everyday life, can cause a lot of traffic and nonsense on the network really. If they're not talking well together if one of them has

an issue if the network has an issue so what SD-WAN does is it combines the network side getting the Internet to you and the application side to make a nice smooth stable transition because from an application layer perspective what that software's gonna do is allow you to create priorities based on the applications you need to run the best all of the time.

So I think there's about 70 identifiable easily identifiable applications out there that are business centric and then you have the addition to as a customer go in and say these are the ones that I have to have running in my environment all the time well. Right so in my household there are six people that live here all the time three of us are working a hundred percent full-time for different providers or different businesses. So in my home network I have not only the things that I utilize for my business but another providers voice over IP phone and a third provider is voice over IP phone. So that protocol obviously gets priority in my house, because one of the things that people are the most sensitive to are phone calls, right. If that phone call is choppy or noisy or it has a bunch of  latency, that is not a good look for anyone.

So we put high priority on phone calls here in this phone house whether it's a desk phone or a cell phone. We have another person here who works part time, but again fully remotely, and we have two people here that are taking online school over the summer. So in my house at any given time there are six people streaming something and using internet.

Always in my house so the magic of SD-WAN is it can take the noise, if you can imagine all of the traffic that's happening within my home network, and prioritizes those things that we've said we need business applications to run seamlessly and everything else gets degraded. Right so, if we're all you know on phone calls in the afternoon, which happens quite frequently, and one of the people that live here decide they want to stream Disney Plus or Netflix or whatever. It's not going to affect the quality of our zoom meetings or our phone calls because we have put those streaming movie applications at a lower level, so if there is any degradation it's going to happen to that and not the business services that we need to run all the time. Okay so that's kind of a quick one circuit scenario, one Internet circuit comes in SD-WAN does the magic to control the applications on the network so that we have the best possible experience. Now let's talk about maybe a more traditional or even a home office if you if you're a little bit more advanced or in an area where there's troublesome internet, you can have two circuits. Right so, a lot of businesses have a primary circuit and they also have a backup because if that primary goes down they need to still be able to do business with their backup. Well what SD-WAN does is it takes those two circuits and it puts them both into the same appliance, right an SD-WAN  is most likely gonna come to you as an edge device, just a small it around a little router guy that you're gonna put in your network between the internet and your firewall.

So it's gonna sit there and it's gonna watch not only all of the application track of traffic we've talked about, which happens in a home network obviously in your office environment there's even more. But it's also going to monitor those two circuits or those two internet connections so that it could balance the load if need be, so that it can do primary and secondary, or if for some reason that primary happens to fail you can have the persistence to keep those calls alive, to keep your sessions alive, and fail to that secondary circuit and back and forth until until it happens.

So there's been experiences where we've had customers, in different providers, where they log in and they say, you know they're getting some training or whatever the hap you know cases. And they find out that one of their circuits has been noisy and up and down all day well it didn't affect their business because they had an SD-WAN device that was managing that connectivity for them. So that's just one example, if you want more details on how that works specifically, you might check the the article I wrote for LinkedIn which was SD-WAN for real life part 2.

There's also a story in part one for a similar sort of scenario where, you know, my friend Erik looks outside just before a huge call he's doing, and the, you know, like the whoever the cable company is that provides one of his circuits to his home office is out there working in the yard and it's down. Not a worry for him, because he has an SD-WAN appliance that handles that and a secondary circuit without all that noise can definitely step up to the plate and handle what he needs to happen. So, really good to circuit scenarios, really great application control to make sure that you can have the best possible  experience with within your network. Whether that's home with one connection office with two connections home with two connections whatever the case may be.

The SD-WAN as a whole, I will say often and probably repeat many times, SD-WAN  as a term today is as vague as cloud was ten years ago. And I mean it the reason is because there are a lot of providers out there and each provider has a different sort of circumstances, which make their SD-WAN applicable to your business or your home office. They all have caveats, pluses, and minuses it can range anywhere from a simple one connection and an LTE backup or it can take you know two LTE connections and aggregate them together there are a lot of options when it comes to how you configure your SD-WAN devices based on what's gonna work best in your environment and that requires a lot of conversation. So if you know me and we've talked about it you know you're gonna get a million questions but the reality is we need to understand what you really want it to accomplish so that you can get the right solution for your environment. So, one of the other big components of SD-WAN, which made a huge splash for our enterprise customers a few years ago, right when it came on the market, was a replacement of an MPLS scenario. So, I honestly don't even remember what those things stand for. But here's the gist of it, traditional MPLS network is a private connection.

So let's consider a group of banks if you will. Traditionally, they would have an MPLS solution that connected each bank privately. Right, so they've got a point-to-point circuit that's copper, it's dedicated to them, no one else is on it, it's not shared bandwidth, it's all theirs. However, it's fairly low bandwidth and it's pretty high cost. So that was for a very very long time, the best way to connect all of your locations, have a secure, and have a private bandwidth.

Today, that can be done with SD-WAN, where we can come in and massively reduce the monthly operating expense by providing SD-WAN appliances and broadband connections, which provide a much higher quantity of bandwidth than you could get with MPLS. So that is definitely one major component of SD-WAN and part of its popularity. I think when I was speaking with Russ on his “Ask the Experts” piece that I wrote that article for on LinkedIn, he had one customer that they saved $30,000 a month by replacing their traditional MPLS, because it was global with SD-WAN and alternate circuits. So anyway, there's lots of good stuff there if you have an MPLS still call me let's figure that out.

Anyway, more common questions about SD-WAN is can't my firewall do that kind of so many next-generation firewalls include some basic SD-WAN and functionality as well. So it can be kind of repetitive depending on what you need it to do from a firewall perspective. Many of them have application control, right, when those next-gen firewalls hit the market, I know we talked a lot about blocking applications, like Facebook and Instagram and that kind of stuff for most employees. And most next-generation firewalls will do that for you.

They will also take two circuits or two LAN connections and load balance between them, if that makes sense for you. But where we've really found the magic works best, is when you have the internet come in to an SD-WAN appliance so it can navigate the circuit on its own, because that's its specialty. And then hand off a clean connection to the firewall so it doesn't get overwhelmed with traffic when it needs to run. It's a security protocol, so that's what we've really found a match there's a lot of different combinations from a configuration perspective again, talk to an engineer. But make sure that you understand how it's going to fit into your network and what its gonna do for you. But we find both right, so having both is the best case scenario, in in most instances.

So what if I only have a single connection? I've been getting this question a lot. I think a lot of the perception about SD-WAN is that you need to have two different connections in order to make it work. Well, that is not necessarily true, like I explained my home environment with all of the people here and all of the things that are running, I only have a single connection here. So, you absolutely can still use SD-WAN for that full application control and prioritization of your business critical components, with a single connection and often you can do that single connection and have an LTE backup, in case your primary connection fails. And at least you can still have some things running, over you know, over Verizon and AT&T, you know whoever's best in your area, from a simcard perspective. And most SD-WAN  providers have an option as that, as a package, for you as well where they, you know, give you enough bandwidth to make sure that you can do your Wireless pings to make sure that the box is still online, in case you happen to have some sort of primary circuit failure. And then packages for X amount of gigs per months so we can talk about that at some other time if you have a specific question.

So one connection, totally fine, in fact there are a lot of providers right now who are doing month to month contracts, or very low entry points, specifically for all of the work from home needs or work from anywhere sort of needs that people have right now. So if you're in a situation where it's touchy in your home office please call me and we can get you set up with one of those providers that's doing some really neat things from that perspective. So how do I figure out what solution is best? Man I'm getting this question a lot these days.

And here's the thing, I'm going to give you three tips. Number one, before you have an SD-WAN conversation you don't necessarily have to write it, out it doesn't have to be fancy, but take the time to identify what your critical applications are. Is it Salesforce or some other sort of CRM that's cloud-based? Is it your accounting software? Is it your voice over IP system and your packets from a voice perspective? is it Zoom collaboration? Is it goto meeting? Is it teams? Right there are so many things that people run on their networks whether it's home or otherwise. The first step to having an SD-WAN conversation is really identifying what is critical to you in your business. Is it point of sale devices? Is it, I don’t know, whatever it is to you, make sure you identify what those are first. Because that's the first question that you're going to get when you have an SD-WAN conversation. So make a note and don't forget about your cloud connections to Amazon Web Services or to Azure we have so many clients right now going to a full cloud strategy which is solid, however sometimes they forget about that being a critical component. Because it's might have an express route or you know a direct connection to those data centers SD-WAN can help protect that connectivity as well. If that's where your business is running out of, we need to address SD-WAN for that connection as well. Okay, so that was number one: identify your applications. Number two, talk to an expert, so if you've had any interaction with me and maybe you can tell from this video, I'm gonna ask you a million questions to understand what your goal really is. There's a lot of components to SD-WAN traffic that need to be understood before you can get a quote and decide what kind of SD-WAN you want to pick. Okay so talk to an expert, talk to an engineer, draw it out and I don't mean like I mean like “draw it out” so I know that I'm a tangible learner. One thing that I always do for my clients is make sure that they can see what this is going to do for them as well some of the initial SD-WAN  and even firewall kind of conversations were kind of intangible right it was hard to tell how much, you know, bad traffic firewall blocked for you or or it was hard to tell if you had a noisy circuit and asked you and handled that because there was no impact right. So make it tangible, draw it out and make sure you understand what the handoff  looks like from the internet provider to your SD-WAN device to your firewall, or to your switch and and ensure that you understand all of those components.

Ok so draw it out, make sure you understand it, make sure you understand who's plugging all that stuff in right. Is it you, is it the provider you're getting it from, make sure you have that conversation. So number one tip: identify your critical applications. Number two: talk to an expert. SD-WAN is not a one-size-fits-all platform ok. Number three, ask questions. I think that a lot of my clients get hesitant to ask me questions because I talk in a real nerdy language sometimes and those acronyms can be kind of intimidating, please don't let that be the case. Take the time, ask the questions, know what you're getting, and if you don't necessarily have the time for that, that's when people like myself get involved. Right, I have a full organization with engineers and access to all of the experts to answer all the questions and make sure we're finding the right solution free. Also make sure you ask lots of questions there are so many options for SD-WAN in the market today again it's a vague term.

It can mean anything from you know a singular connection with just some failover and no persistence for your session, meaning you know that end of the spectrum is I have an internet connection if it fails I have an LTE connection that picks up but there's no magic between there. So everyone is on the phone and everybody that's in some sort of application at the moment is dropped and then the new thing picks up and then they might be able to connect again. SD-WAN magic on the other side of the spectrum, can take up to nine different kinds of connections meld them together so that you have one pristine connection. It's not double the bandwidth, it's not not giving you more because you have more connection, it's about providing its number one goal for SD-WAN, which is stability. So you need to have a conversation about throughput and you need to make sure your expectations are going to be met with a solution. I hope that this wasn't a totally boring video and that you guys learn something if you have questions please put them in the comments below. Please reach out to us at blushtechnology.com, and I will talk to you soon about something else.