4 reasons to consider a software-defined WAN

Using software to bring up branch connections saves time and hassle

by David Strom

By now you’ve probably heard the numerous benefits of software-defined networks (SDN). There is much to like about SDN, and many IT shops are checking out the technology and weighing its benefits. But one area that doesn’t get much attention is how IT managers can create a software-defined WAN infrastructure.

Why bother? Here are 4 reasons:

1. You need to bring up or tear down a number of connections to your branch offices

If you have dozens or even hundreds of branch office connections, the process can get tedious. Adding or removing connections with software saves time and hassle, rather than monitoring all of these connections and dropping and adding lines manually.

2. You’re adding more cloud apps to your portfolio

If you are planning to use more Software as a Service (SaaS) apps over the next couple of years, you’ll want to look for better ways to use these cloud connections. Prepare to revise your WAN architecture to support external cloud applications delivered under software control.

As your SaaS traffic increases to various cloud providers, you will have a different pattern of bandwidth usage that won’t necessarily pass through your corporate data center. Rather, it will go directly to these Internet-based destinations. This means that your existing upstream Internet bandwidth may not be adequate to handle this traffic.

3. You need to consider different usage scenarios and their quality of service implications

In this case, you can take things a step further from just placing your apps under WAN policies to having the WAN under software control. This is not just possible but a great way to segment your needs and make sure the low-latency traffic, like voice, will have the right line quality when it is needed, during daytime hours for example.

As Internet connections become more reliable and faster, it’s important to find ways to exploit them for higher-quality links. IT managers should evaluate each branch office according to what kinds of applications they are running and the performance and reliability they require, and then consider the most cost-effective WAN alternatives available.

4. You need something more than T-1 speeds for your WAN links.

You may find that T-1 isn’t fast enough and need more cost-effective but faster bandwidth. Why not put these links under software control so you can adjust bandwidth as you need it. SDN has many advantages. Thinking ahead will go a long way toward a successful deployment now and in years to come.

AT&T recently introduced a new, SDN-based process it calls Network on Demand, for ordering and managing its AT&T Switched Ethernet Service. This process can be used to help you create your organization’s WAN links. For more on how a software-defined WAN can benefit your organization, check out Network on Demand.