Uptime and availability are of the utmost importance in the world of IT. Downtime means lost productivity and lost business. As the size of an enterprise grows, so do the costs of downtime. This is why so much time, effort, and money are driven into fault-tolerance, failover, high-availability, and redundancy. This is as true with the WAN as it is anywhere else.
Despite resilience being such a focal-point for enterprise IT, outages still occur. Even major players in the ISP (Internet Service Provider) space have fallen victim to downtime. For example, CenturyLink faced an FCC investigation for a December 2018 outage that impacted everything from ability to use 911 to ATM withdrawals. While the CenturyLink incident was certainly headline-grabbing due to its scope, they aren’t the only ones to have fallen victim, Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T experienced significant outages in November of 2017.
If such big players whose core business depends on availability have been impacted by unexpected downtime, what can other enterprises be expected to do? There’s obviously no single answer that will magically ensure “five nines” (99.999% availability) for an enterprise, and a multifaceted approach that takes into account redundancy, resilience, security, and mitigation of user error is needed. To that end, selecting the right SD-WAN solution is a major part of ensuring you are doing all you can to maximize availability for your enterprise. SDWaaS (SD-WAN as a Service) is capable of bringing the redundancy and resilience that enterprises need, while minimizing complexity (which can often be a key driver of human error).
In this piece, we’ll dive into what makes SDWaaS unique when it comes to adding resilience to the WAN.
Legacy MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) solutions had enterprises focused on redundancy in the “middle mile”. The traditional line of thinking was that a robust core was enough to enable enterprises to overcome single points of failure. However, in this paradigm, the “last mile” is often overlooked and outages related to a misbehaving router or rouge squirrel chewing throw a line could lead to downtime. While dual MPLS lines were a potential way to mitigate this sort of risk, they weren’t the norm and certainly weren’t cheap.
SD-WAN enables enterprises to add a layer of robustness to their last-mile connectivity by way of leveraging multiple transport methods. Enterprises can use xDSL, 4G LTE, cable, etc. in conjunction with one another and limit dependence on just one transport method. However, with many SD-WAN solutions, you also often lose the SLA-backed backbone MPLS offers. This isn’t the most attractive tradeoff for an enterprise focused on maximizing uptime.
This is where we begin to see the value of SDWaaS. Not only does SDWaaS offer the “standard” SD-WAN benefits, it gives enterprises access to a global, SLA-backed, and Tier-1 ISP supported private backbone. Additionally, by using multiple PoPs (Points of Presence) across the globe, SDWaaS helps reduce single points of failure by automatically failing over to the next PoP in the event one goes down.
In short, SDWaaS helps enterprises add redundancy and resilience to the middle-mile and last-mile – giving users the best of both worlds when comparing SD-WAN and MPLS.
Attacks on a network can lead to significant downtime and data breaches. For this reason, any enterprise focused on uptime also needs to be focused on WAN security. Traditionally this means sourcing, provisioning, and maintaining costly security appliances. However, with SDWaaS enterprises benefit from the fact SDWaaS also integrates a full security stack, including NGFW (Next Generation Firewall), IPS (Intrusion Prevention System), and anti-malware features. What this means is security becomes baked-in to the WAN and easier to scale. This helps reduce the risk of oversights and misconfigurations and therefore enhances efforts to improve uptime.
Self-monitoring and Self-healing
Monitoring is an important part of maintaining uptime. While many solutions are focused on identifying if a link is up or down (for example using ping/ICMP), automating a response and identifying brownouts often go overlooked. With SDWaaS, enterprises can take a proactive approach to addressing issues by leveraging its ability to not only monitor services, but also self-heal and thereby speed up mean time to recovery. For example, in the unlikely event one PoP goes down, failover to another occurs automatically.
Further, because SDWaaS offers Intelligent Last Mile Management (ILMM), enterprises can be proactive about addressing brownout (degradation in performance) detection and response. Many legacy monitoring solutions simply don’t offer visibility granular enough to take this same proactive approach to brownouts. If a performance degradation is severe enough, it can effectively create downtime, and brownouts can also be precursors to blackouts, so the benefits to uptime here are clear.
SDWaaS helps bring resiliency to the enterprise
Keeping the WAN up and available is a major priority for any enterprise. Making a WAN resilient enough to do remain highly-available is a challenge that requires a multifaceted approach that emphasizes redundancy. SDWaaS is designed from the ground up to be resilient and reliable enough to offer enterprises a WAN solution they can depend on without sacrificing performance. By moving to SDWaaS for WAN connectivity, enterprises can help ensure they are leveraging a solution that is flexible, SLA-backed, reliable, and secure.