SD-WAN Spotlight: A Q&A with VeloCloud

Many enterprises are considering implementing SD-WAN as a way to reduce costs and improve connectivity—but the devil is always in the details. To examine the reality behind SD-WAN implementations, we are showcasing a series of spotlight Q&As about the technology.

This week’s Spotlight features Michael Wood, the vice president of marketing at VeloCloud Networks, one of the leaders in the space.

VeloCloud, which will soon be acquired by VMware, this week rolled out a new suite of “Outcome-Driven Networking” functionality for its subscription-based cloud-delivered SD-WAN solution. The feature orchestrates and automates network processes end-to-end, based on stated business outcomes. The idea is to address the challenge posed by unacceptably high levels of CLI, complex parameters even in graphical interfaces, manual learning and the per-device customization required to achieve the desired outcome, resulting in operational inefficiencies and failure to achieve IT goals

More: Don’t miss our end-user Q&A with Rentokil.

ChannelVision: What are the main pain points that SD-WAN solves for enterprises?

Wood: SD-WAN solves several significant pain points for enterprises:

  1. Extends network performance, reliability, visibility and security over Internet to cloud compute, applications, services, and resources for businesses. Reliance on the cloud for every networking functionality, including application usage, storage, and data and file transport, is becoming commonplace. The problem that enterprises run into is that their existing network is not built to support this shift, and by forcing cloud functionality on the legacy infrastructure puts too much strain on it, bogging down performance and the ability to scale. SD-WAN removes this constraint, as it is purpose-built to support all cloud functionality by optimizing transport, regardless of type, while increasing bandwidth.
  2. Transforms ordinary internet to branch offices into high capacity, optimized, reliable, secure and high-performance throughput for continuously growing high-bandwidth applications being consumed in the branch office.
  3. Lowers the cost and barrier to design, implementation, deployment and management of enterprise networks by using cloud orchestration, proactive outcome-driven networking and inexpensive customer premises equipment.

Networks of enterprises that have been around for any length of time are often extremely complex, incorporating numerous vendors with their own protocols and processes, components that have complex configuration procedures and require specialized personnel to maintain, applications that must be made available to thousands of employees and an even broader customer base, and a dispersed topology with central offices and branch sites that need varying levels of access to this network. SD-WAN can be deployed as OTT, as a hybrid implementation, or as a complete replacement of existing data-carrying protocol that accelerates, optimizes and streamlines the connections between network components and technologies and allows for IT managers to proactively manage all this activity.

  1. Visibility and troubleshooting.

Most enterprises have no visibility into their own networks and its activity, especially as employees become increasingly mobile and use multiple devices to access that network. With a lack of visibility, it is difficult to know of issues until notified by a user, identify the root cause of those issues when they arise, or determine a method of fixing it as there is little information. SD-WAN introduces a level of network visibility that is paramount to the success, security and efficiency of any organization. With it, network managers are notified when there is a problem on the network, often before a user realizes it, identify the root cause and initiate troubleshooting procedures. From a central pane of glass, issues can be remediated, which saves time and costs, increasing the security and efficiency of the organization.

  1. Investment protection and future proofing.

Enterprises must evolve to stay current and so must their networks. But most networks are limited in how they can morph to support changing requirements. They either need a complete overhaul, or significant modifications (a.k.a., money) to accommodate them. SD-WAN is different because the entire premise on which it is based (SDN) is designed to be flexible, scalable and durable. Regardless of the change that the company wants to implement, SD-WAN can meet the demand at a lower dollar amount, with fewer resources, and with many more options than with a legacy network.

CV: While the promise and the premise of the technology are good, the devil is always in the details. What are some best practices for ensuring that the transition from MPLS to SD-WAN goes smoothly?

Wood: VeloCloud would suggest that any enterprise seeking to make the change from one to another is to do a phased approach. Enterprises cannot afford to be offline and if they choose to do a literal “rip” of their existing MPLS and “replace” with SD-WAN, they will run the risk of not meeting employee and customer needs during the transition. Instead, we suggest that SD-WAN be deployed alongside the MPLS, and when connectivity is established, remove the MPLS connection.

CV: What about security? What data handling considerations are at play for the transition?

Wood: Security is a key component of SD-WAN. And the beauty of VeloCloud Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN is that we have an established security ecosystem that includes nearly every best-of-breed, on-premises and cloud security vendor, so that our customers who are migrating to SD-WAN can retain their established security relationships. VeloCloud supports virtual network functions (VNFs) from each of these vendors in our VeloCloud Edge virtual CPE.

Additionally, VeloCloud Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN has built-in firewall capabilities that can augment existing firewall functionality, or replace it altogether for a smaller hardware footprint.

CV: Is it possible for SD-WAN to be a “simple” implementation?

Wood: Yes, definitely. VeloCloud Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN is built with simplicity in mind, and because we are 100-percent channel-driven, we knew the deployment of the solution had to be simple to deploy to gain traction with that market.

VeloCloud Edges can be shipped to branches, connected, and with zero touch configuration can be plugged in behind a modem, router or switch, activating full SD-WAN at any site. VeloCloud Gateways are deployed in the cloud, always available, and only require that access be given to users. VeloCloud Orchestrators are cloud-delivered with a simple graphical user interface (GUI) for configuration, management and monitoring. The VeloCloud Orchestrator communicates directly with VeloCloud Edges and VeloCloud Gateways propagating business and security policy network-wide.

As an example, we have customers who get a very short window in which to deploy SD-WAN in a set location, not even knowing what types of transports will be available in that specific geographic area. They will send a VeloCloud Edge to the location and use a 4G LTE connection until a carrier line can be installed. Once the carrier’s line is available, that line is simply plugged into the VeloCloud Edge. It really is a simple implementation and very scalable.

CV: What hidden challenges exist that enterprises may not have thought about when it comes to getting the most from their SD-WAN deployment?

Wood: A hidden challenge that we see is when an enterprise looks at SD-WAN as a like-for-like alternative to MPLS. For instance, if an enterprise is seeking to let their MPLS contracts expire and implement SD-WAN as the replacement, they consider it a 1:1 replacement and only use SD-WAN in the same way they did MPLS. But SD-WAN is not only a great augmentation or alternative to MPLS, it is not limited to only site-to-site connectivity. It really opens the door to making networking initiatives a reality because it is not limited by architecture, by scale, by flexibility, by location because of its cloud-delivered nature and ability to extend performance, security, control and visibility into the cloud.

We have customers who have shifting their telephone systems into the cloud using a hosted VoIP provider combined with VeloCloud Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN, to produce an exceptional experience for customers, employees and clients. We have many customers who have replaced their existing branch routers with VeloCloud Edges to handle their full routing capabilities, and others who run other VNFs on the VeloCloud Edges rather than add another box to their hardware stack.