The Move from Centralized WAN Design

WANThe design for wide area network (WAN) is currently adapting to new requirements for networks, so the typical hub-and-spoke configuration is making way for other alternatives. There are many factors driving a change in WAN design, but two have had the most impact:

  1. The migration to cloud software for applications and data storage
  2. Software as a Service (SaaS), cloud-based apps, and managed services all require a WAN configuration that reduces latency and improves speed and performance

With the need for quicker connections and better performance, there are currently three main designs for WAN:

  • Centralized internet access (in this case, firewalls, authentication, and other security features are in the single WAN access point)
  • Decentralized internet access (this is known as “every site for itself”)
  • Regionalized internet access

Overall, the trend is moving away from a centralized design, except in those cases where a company is geographically localized and is primarily using on-site software solutions.

The Implications of a Decentralized WAN Design

While it’s easy to understand the desire for a direct connection to the internet for branches to increase speed and efficiency and improve business processes, a decentralized WAN design presents other challenges for IT teams. Managing security and firewalls is more difficult and expensive when there are multiple entry points for accessing the internet.

A centralized WAN design has some benefits when it comes to security, including the requirement for all traffic to back-haul to your centralized network before going out to the internet.


Many enterprises are adopting what’s called regionalized internet access, in which they gain some of the benefits of centralized and decentralized designs. In this model, there are generally two variations used: hub routers in colocation sites or virtual hub routers in the cloud.

One benefit of using hub routers in the colocation sites is that end users appreciate a fast connection to the internet with an inexpensive price tag. The alternative is simply the virtual equivalent of this system, with virtual hub routers in the cloud. There are a few challenges for this method, including limitations in performance, the ability to access inter-cloud provider connections, and potential fees for egress traffic from cloud providers.

With a regional connection, you still have some of the latency that comes with a centralized WAN design, but it’s spread out between multiple locations. As a result, speed is not as big of a problem and performance is reliable.

As comprehensive consultants, Focal Solutions works with you through every step of your technology plan, from choosing a network configuration to determining which applications are best hosted in the cloud. We’ll make sure speed and performance never suffer while reducing your overall IT costs. Give us a call to talk more.

SD-WAN: Combining Intuitive Connectivity, Monitoring, and Provision for Superior Network Performance

SD-WANCompanies today must be able to transact business securely in order to stay ahead of competitors and build a reputation for excellence, and business architectures are changing to meet these new demands. Wide area networks (WAN) offer the ability to connect branch offices and data centers across large geographical areas. When combined with software-defined networking (SDN) technologies which are delivered through the cloud, a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) delivers effective tools that enterprises can safely deploy to retain and expand their profitability.

Virtual private networks (VPN) that are contained in a cloud environment offer cost reductions, improved network management, and an effective user experience for employees and customers alike. This same technology applies to broadband internet connections, increasing their security. Instead of purchasing capital intensive WAN technologies like multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), the migration to SD-WAN provides layer-2 and layer-3 switching possibilities through VPN, optimization, network as a service (NaaS), and application policy and delivery controls.


How It Works

SD-WAN technology uses secure broadband connections to replace more expensive legacy technologies. Routing hardware is exchanged using specific provisioning and connectivity through cloud software, which enables companies to scale up during times of peak demand. Security is assured through VPN, and businesses can deploy additional optimization through application policy and provision controls.

For enterprises that now rely on some type of public, private, or hybrid cloud model (that included on-premises servers), SD-WAN delivers effective methods for managing and optimizing the mix of MLPS, Ethernet, cable, and DSL that originates from a variety of local access providers.


Business Benefits

Because of its cost to benefit ratio, SD-WAN use is expected to rise rapidly over the next few years. By automating the configuration of edge routers and channeling traffic to less expensive broadband use, businesses like retailers, restaurant chains, and bank franchises find easier ways to manage hundreds of small sites and create cost-effective bandwidth to access cloud storage and applications, all while ensuring security and performance. Network performance results include:

  • Lower Cost—By employing more broadband and fewer private links, the endpoint monitoring automatically provisions packet deliveries using the most efficient configuration for the least cost.
  • Decreased Complexity—Routing protocols choose the best method and stick with it, and they won’t react to packet loss or congested links without external manipulation. SD-WAN dynamically routes traffic according to immediate network conditions. It’s still complex, but there’s less work required to maintain optimum performance.
  • Increased Flexibility—This technology allows businesses to utilize the most cost-effective form of path calculation. Mission critical or SLA-bound applications are routed through the virtual MPLS, which also manages bandwidth consumption, while other apps, backup WAN, and traffic without asymmetric routing can be transmitted through less expensive public cloud.

SD-WAN services better align enterprise networks for optimum performance. By delivering secure, business class connections using cloud-based WAN in a software-defined environment, companies receive better performance, security, and provisioning without the high costs of legacy hardware.

SDN Adoption: Are Businesses Ready to Jump in?

Enterprises are only scratching the surface of SDN deployment.

There are as many aspects of software-defined networking (SDN) as there are research experts and developers. While SDN is a much-heralded technology, there are varying opinions about its infrastructure and performance. As a result, it is essential to analyze both the high and low points of this new technology. The following information is designed to help enterprises make an informed decision about SDN.

SDN Use Cases

Use cases are instrumental in highlighting the pros and cons of SDN. While SDN is designed to enhance data center and wide area network performance, it is surely not exempt from gaps. In fact, when companies look to adopt SDN, they are primarily looking at its infrastructure. They want networking systems that enable automation and make daily operational challenges easier. The challenge is that SDN infrastructure cannot always meet these objectives. Here is why:

  • SDN infrastructure is only the mechanism or control plane.
  • Companies need network applications to correlate with SDN for optimal efficiency.
  • The right network applications ensure elastic scaling, agile provisioning, and dis-aggregation.
  • Real-time application deployment and automation services need to be integrated within the SDN infrastructure.

SDN on its own cannot fulfill every company directive or goal. The infrastructure relies on compatible and fully integrated apps to ensure maximum functionality and performance.


SDN Integration Example

A good example of integration is SDN technologies running with load balancers. In these scenarios, balancers communicate with SDN controllers to collect information on switch infrastructures. This helps identify potential issues that can impact user experience. If any are found, traffic steering requests are implemented to move flows near the hotspot. This is a crucial since most controllers utilize a ‘set and forget’ approach for program flow.

Another example of SDN integration is when it is utilized to ensure quality of service (QoS).

  • Video requests are handled by application delivery controllers (ADC).
  • ADC sets QoS marking on forward paths through the switch infrastructure and onto video services.
  • ADC calls the controllers and requests to set the priority out of the server at the same level.

In this scenario, the response priority is set at the same level so users receive bi-directional QoS for their videos.


Adoption Levels

While the future of SDN deployment is uncertain, comanies are observing the integration closely. In fact, many businesses are asking why it hasn’t reached peak levels yet. The reality is that SDN is being adopted at significant rates.

Reasons for slow deployment include the fact that use cases are still in progress and are not fully understood yet; many companies are simply unaware of SDN. Further, the adoption of SDN infrastructure requires OpenFlow or other southbound interfaces to switches. With this switch requirement, not all companies are able to deploy SDN across the board. Even with data infrastructure refreshes, centers are only limited to their existing traditional networks.

SDN, when deployed, can correlate with any network so long as the right components are present.

The Time to Adopt 802.11ac Is Now

shutterstock_132011132802.11ac Wi-Fi has truly impacted the wireless networking market. While only a small number of IP-enabled devices including phones and PCs currently have 802.11ac compatible chips, users of those devices are clearly enjoying faster speeds and longer communication ranges. Some of the other benefits associated with this recently introduced technology include:


  • super fast Wi-Fi that far surpasses the old 802.11n standard,
  • the possibility of replacing outdated wired Ethernet connections,
  • larger bandwidth for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and video conferencing applications, and
  • better options for mobile range and channel width.

This new form of Internet connectivity has taken the wireless and remote market by storm. Businesses are guaranteed higher speeds and connectivity that support VoIP and a range of other high-end applications. Customers will have future-proof networking along with a stronger foundation for cloud-based and real-time applications. Now is the time to get a jump start and adopt the 802.11ac interface.

The Features of 802.11ac

Based on its specifications and properties, 802.11ac is three times faster than the old 802.11n model. It can also deliver lighting fast speeds to devices across greater distances with less signal issues than its predecessor. It is able to achieve these feats due to the following signature features:

  • 802.11ac broadcasts on the 5 GHZ band, which is quieter and has less interference than the 2.4 GHZ band.
  • It has a wider range of channels – 256 signals as opposed to only 64 signals in 802.11n.
  • It utilizes eight spatial streams to secure more bandwidth and storage capability.
  • 802.11ac has standardized beam-forming technologies that allow it to easily identify other compatible devices across a wide range, which is superior to traditional Wi-Fi mechanisms that broadcast indiscriminately in multiple directions.

The SD-WAN and 802.11ac Wi-Fi

With HD voice and video streaming services continuing to grow at unprecedented rates, switching over to 802.11ac is a sensible move as it ensures faster communications with a wider range of features. While it may seem to be the perfect solution for companies seeking faster speeds, evolving the wide area network (WAN) is not as simple as adding new 802.11ac compliant routers and endpoints. This move should be accompanied by a smart approach to a company’s WAN.

Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) is designed to handle today’s most intricate and widely used applications. This includes VoIP, video conferencing, and other important programs. WAN is always searching for the best paths to take while monitoring metrics like packet loss and jitter. By determining and securing an optimal route for traffic flow, it accentuates the high-speed performance on 802.11ac, resulting in a comprehensive and cohesive networking environment.

Securing 802.11ac Access

Consumers can easily secure optimal access by purchasing compatible routers and 802.11ac-enabled devices. The same can be said for enterprises wishing to overhaul or upgrade their existing network infrastructures. Whether for business or personal use, 802.11ac is the next big thing in Wi-Fi communications.