SD-WAN and the UC Connection

Only one SD-WAN solution — InSpeed Quality Service — was built from the ground up to deliver high-quality unified communications.

Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) technology is changing the way organizations interconnect multiple sites and connect to the Internet, according to a new report from Gartner. The research firm predicts 57 percent annual growth in the SD-WAN market through 2020, as organizations look for ways to reduce WAN costs while meeting ever-increasing bandwidth demands.

However, Gartner’s report notes that there are a number of different approaches to SD-WAN, each with different features and price points. Many vendors that offer traditional routing, WAN optimization, WAN virtualization and security solutions have added SD-WAN capabilities to their products. Because these products weren’t designed for SD-WAN, Gartner warns that organizations should evaluate them carefully before committing to a particular vendor.

So-called “pure play” SD-WAN products were built from the ground up to deliver SD-WAN capabilities. However, Gartner notes that their feature sets vary widely, again making it difficult to choose the right solution.

“Interestingly, all of these products do have one thing in common — they don’t support functions such as IP telephony,” said Jeff Andrews, Executive Vice President, IPC. “Apparently, the SD-WAN vendors Gartner evaluated didn’t consider the prevalence of IP telephony and unified communications platforms, or how the quality of the WAN connection impacts voice calls and video conferencing.

“It’s too bad Gartner didn’t evaluate InSpeed Networks. InSpeed Quality Service is the only SD-WAN solution designed to ensure high-quality business communications.”

The Value of SD-WAN

The typical SD-WAN solution uses software-defined networking principles and WAN aggregation to enable reliable and secure connectivity over broadband Internet links. A centralized controller makes routing decisions based upon policies defined for various types of WAN traffic and the availability of any given connection. This enables organizations to reduce their reliance on multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) services, which are much more expensive than broadband.

“Large enterprises have traditionally connected their branch locations to headquarters via MPLS, funneling all Internet access through those pipes,” Andrews said. “They did that because MPLS provides guaranteed Quality of Service, whereas the Internet is inherently unreliable.

“It was a costly and complex setup from the get-go, but worked well enough when Internet access was largely limited to web browsing and email. Now, with the rapid growth of IP telephony and cloud-based applications, organizations are having to continually increase the bandwidth of their MPLS links.”

SD-WAN uses encrypted “tunnels,” or virtual private networks (VPNs), to protect data as it crosses the Internet and to establish secure site-to-site connectivity. Some SD-WAN solutions also include advanced threat detection and prevention features. Taken as a whole, SD-WAN better supports today’s Internet access models by centralizing management, enhancing security and consolidating the number of devices at branch locations.

“InSpeed does all those things, while also prioritizing voice, video conferencing and other interactive applications,” said Andrews. “It also has a number of other features that make it especially attractive to small and midsize businesses.”

High-Quality and Cost-Efficient

Many SD-WAN solutions approximate the reliability of MPLS by aggregating multiple broadband Internet links in an active-active configuration. Because all connections are active simultaneously, traffic can be routed over the best connection available. Or, organizations can retain their MPLS service and add one or more Internet connections to handle some of the traffic.

However, smaller businesses may have just one Internet connection. Adding a second service is going to increase their WAN costs, not lower them. And, depending upon the location, a second Internet option may not even be available.

“InSpeed provides high-quality connectivity without the need to overprovision bandwidth — which doesn’t really solve the problem anyway,” Andrews said. “InSpeed ensures a great unified communications experience over any broadband Internet connection, which means you can implement it in all of your locations and even use it for employees who work from home. If you want to add a second Internet connection for redundancy, you can certainly do that, but it’s not required.”

InSpeed is also very simple to use. When the InSpeed appliance is plugged in, it automatically creates a secure connection to the InSpeed cloud and starts prioritizing traffic. There’s no need for complex configurations or policy definitions.

“The Gartner report notes that it’s important to consider the architecture of the SD-WAN solution when selecting a vendor,” said Andrews. “InSpeed’s patented technology provides all the best features of SD-WAN in a cost-efficient, easy-to-manage solution that optimizes your interactive applications.”