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SD-WAN, as Simple or as Complex as Needed

By Duane Henigin, Consulting System Engineer at Aruba

Most likely your wide area network (WAN) has grown in complexity over time or you have inherited a network with its own challenges. Mergers, acquisitions, consolidations, closures, new applications and new business needs make designing and managing an enterprise WAN a never ending, complicated task. A task that some say requires the ability to read minds and predict the future. Add in the constant balance between dependability and performance with cost and you have just scratched the surface of architecting and managing an enterprise WAN.

Enter into the market: SD-WAN! An entirely new way to look at network architecture, one that focuses on the desired business outcome and not just how the ‘ones and zeros’ get from point A to point B.

My 26 years of network and security architecture experience has led me to follow a foundational tenet when building an enterprise WAN: Keep it as simple as possible. There are a number of valid reasons for a network to grow in complexity without over engineering it from the start. I realize the idea of a new networking paradigm shift, like SD-WAN along with an entirely new product can seem daunting.

However, a project like this can provide an enormous opportunity to build a modern network with a solid foundation that will grow with the changing needs of your business. For a product to be both simple to deploy yet address complex requirements, it must come from a vendor with both maturity and focus. The solution needs to hit the ground running, be simple to configure and deploy, but advanced enough to handle the complexity and scale of an enterprise network. That’s a lot to ask from any vendor.

In the current market where as many as 60 vendors laying claim to SD-WAN, but there only four or five vendors capable of credibly making the claim, and only two, maybe three that are any good at it. I started working for Silver Peak in 2016 (since acquired by Aruba in September 2020). I was first exposed to SD-WAN in my role as a systems engineer for a large service provider. My first thought was that this would revolutionize the way we architect, build, deploy and manage networks. My drive to always help my customers find the best solution possible drove me to research all the available vendors and options.

I discovered there were three or four real solutions at that time. All had generally the same theory on what an SD-WAN was, but each had a different way of getting there. The Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform (now Aruba EdgeConnect) stuck out to me because Silver Peak had been in business as an early WAN optimization company from its founding in 2004. In 2015, the company adapted its WAN optimization solution to an SD-WAN solution by aligning its singular focus on WAN innovation toward designing a completely new solution. With a solid foundation based on application acceleration and steering traffic over any combination of WAN transport reliably using VPNs it marked a significant shift in product strategy that proved to be well ahead of the broader market. You can honestly say Silver Peak was developing an SD-WAN before SD-WAN entered the scene.

Fast forward nearly six years and the EdgeConnect platform has advanced even further and we have no intention of slowing down. We support more than 2,500 customers ranging from ten to thousands of sites with an out-of-the-box configuration that fits 90 percent of corporate use cases. EdgeConnect can be customized for production in a day or two. With features like Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) and Zero Touch Configuration (ZTC), customers can deploy a hundred sites or more in just a few days, like TrialCard has just done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A key message I want to communicate is that Silver Peak has been focused on WAN innovation for more than 16 years. I’ve done many proof of concepts (POCs) and most customers say the same things. “I need to protect my VoIP traffic, I have two or three critical applications that have to be up at all times, I need to prioritize certain traffic, and I have to be able to securely segment certain traffic from the rest of my network and there is no way any of this can be done over the Internet!” Once a POC has started and we make a VoIP phone call across the SD-WAN fabric and they start disconnecting circuits without negatively impacting the call in any way, things quickly turn into a ‘kid in a candy store’ scenario. The light goes on and the customers doing the POC immediately get it.

Now, being able to protect VoIP traffic with multiple circuits has become a standard feature of most SD-WAN vendors. So, if the products you’re evaluating can’t do this, then you’re not looking at an SD-WAN vendor. Where Aruba’s SD-WAN innovation really shines is in the platform’s advanced capabilities. Yes, we can protect VoIP traffic, but we also protect all your other application traffic without using up all of your available bandwidth.

You might wonder how we’re able to do this. Aruba EdgeConnect is completely customizable. Like most of our features, our product has evolved in response to addressing a broad range of customer requirements. It can be deployed out-of-the-box within days, completely changing your end user experience and making you a hero across your company. EdgeConnect can also address complex configurations like dynamic routing, load balancing and failover criteria, security segmentation, application prioritization, application performance, high availability, the list goes on.

My point is that with EdgeConnect you have the freedom of choice! You can decide how simple or complex your deployment is. You can choose what best-of-breed wireless, switching, security, solutions you use, and we interoperate with most. You can choose to stay with local applications or hosted applications. You can keep your data centers or migrate to the cloud. The EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform will fit into your existing network and deliver tremendous improvements. And, you can take the opportunity to correct all those annoying little “snowflakes” that exist in your network that continue to make your life hard. Keep MPLS or move to all-Internet or run both. With EdgeConnect it's your choice!  Simple or complex, either way, Aruba EdgeConnect makes your journey to SD-WAN easy!

Silver Peak was acquired by Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.