By Charles F. Moreira, Editor
Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) solutions provider Silver Peak aims to have signed up 10 SD-WAN customers in Malaysia by the the end of 2017, Tricia Png, Silver Peak Systems Pte. Ltd. regional director for Asia told Enterprise TV in Kuala Lumpur on 19 July 2017.
Introduced to Malaysia about two years ago, Silver Peak currently has four customers in Malaysia. These currently are in the manufacturing, shipping and government sectors, though the company is also targeting corporate customers in the services, healthcare, large distributors, insurance and financial services sectors and later small-to-medium businesses through managed services providers. Altogether, Silver Peak has 20 customers across Asia and 400 worldwide.
Huge cost savings
A relatively new network management technology, Png says that SD-WAN can save enterprises up to 80% in network connectivity costs compared to the Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) connections currently still widely used by enterprises in Malaysia and worldwide.
“MPLS connectivity in Malaysia comprises leased lines provided by the telcos and are priced according to distance and speed. The cost of MPLS lines in Malaysia range from RM36,000 per annum for a 64Kbps (kilobits per second) line up to as much as RM240,000 per annum for a 2Mbps (megabits per second) line”, said Png.
The telcos are responsible for the installation of MPLS lines and it can take them from three to four months to fully configure MPLS for a customer. The telcos, not the customers are responsible for the maintenance of the MPLS connections and their reconfiguration as and when required.
MPLS technology is about 20 years old and it is an evolution from the earlier Frame Relay technology and being private, MPLS connections are separate from the much cheaper commercial-grade broadband Internet.
On the other hand, SD-WAN firstly puts the network control functions in the hands of the customer and lets them manage the configuration of data traffic flow in the underlying network infrastructure. It also connects the network applications in the layer above to the underlying infrastructure below.
Secondly, being network agnostic, SD-WAN works over fixed broadband Internet connections, satellite links, terrestrial cellular LTE broadband and also MPLS connections. It thus lets customers take advantage of more affordable connections, whilst its also helps them to protect their current connectivity investment. Moreover, a Silver Peak SD-WAN managed network can be set up in about two weeks.
Some of Silver Peak’s SD-WAN customers have made the quantum leap from MPLS to broadband, whilst others have tiptoed into acceptance of SD-WAN by first using it for less time-sensitive traffic such as e-mail and web browsing, whilst routing more security-sensitive data transfers and more time sensitive traffic such as voice over IP (VoIP), videoconferencing and virtual desktops over MPLS. This more conservative approach lets them migrate gradually to SD-WAN at their own pace as they phase out older-technology connections, or if they so choose, maintain a mix of connection technologies as suits their requirements.
This conservative approach is understandable, since MPLS connections enable better quality of service (QoS) compared to broadband Internet and MPLS also enables compliance with service level agreements. MPLS places special labels on each packet, which isolates them from other traffic such as in shared networks and enables prioritisation of MPLS traffic which helps minimise packet loss even over congested networks. These labels also enable MPLS networks to be more secure, since only the nodes which look for certain specific tags can read packets along the network. The Internet does not have such inherent protections.
However, SD-WAN vendors are aware of such concerns and have come up with several solutions to address them.
A common approach to avoid or minimise packet loss is to have two different connections from two different broadband Internet providers. This redundancy alone has been found to enable up to 99.99% availability overall. Also, by measuring the packet loss across each provider, if customers detect problems in the connection of one provider, they can reduce traffic over that link and route traffic over the other provider’s link.
If customers detect packet loss in both providers’ links, then they can use Forward Error Correction (FEC) to overcome packet loss. FEC places parity packets (or ‘check’ packets) in the stream of packets being transmitted and if the receiving end detects lost packets, it can reconstruct them from the parity packets without having to request their retransmission from the sending end, which would contribute to delays. FEC works somewhat like how RAID techniques enable the reconstruction of data stored on hard disks and Silver Peak’s SD-WAN solution can dynamically insert fewer or more parity packets into the packet stream depending upon the severity of packet loss detected and by having two different broadband Internet for redundancy combined with FEC, customers can then apply QoS to prioritise which packets are more critical than others.
As for security, virtual private networks (VPNs) can be used and VPN security is considered sufficient for most applications.
“Our SD-WAN solution consolidates all network equipment onto one single platform and we can also build an intelligent edge network – or a self-driving WAN – for our customers”, said Png.
For example, different templates can be built for different topologies, such as the highest availability for Voice-over-IP (VoIP) packets and the lowest priority for e-mail packets. When completed, these templates can be pushed out to the network edge.
Similar templates can also be created to prioritise or even restrict access to different types of packets within an organisation based upon their application. For example, packets related to Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based suite of office productivity applications can be given top priority over the WAN, whilst packets related to public streaming video services such as You Tube can either be dropped or given low priority depending on each customer’s internal policies.
“Cloud computing is here to stay and SD-WAN is part of it”, said Png. “We expect our first phase of growth to come from enterprise customers and our second wave from SMBs through managed services providers”, Png added.