For the majority of business enterprises Wide Area Network (WAN) infrastructures will form one of their biggest operational expenses in terms of total cost of networking ownership. Given this fact, selecting the most appropriate wide area solution - or even combination of solutions - is a choice that firms cannot afford to undertake lightly.
Picture, for a moment, a large network with many subnetworks, each of which has many individual users. To the users, this large network is transparent—so smoothly functioning that it is invisible. After all, they neither know nor care whether the information they need is on server X or server Y, whether the person with whom they want to communicate is in Denver or Salt Lake City, or whether the underlying network runs a particular protocol. They know only that they want the network to work, and that they want their information needs satisfied accurately, efficiently, and as quickly as possible.
So how do we do that?
Most business owners and even some IT managers immediately think… hmm, I guess I need internet to do that. Truth be told that is one way to do it but what do we know about internet and how secure is it?
1. An Internet connection is just that, a path to the Internet. There is no path to the data center or private server or a secondary location, it takes a piece of equipment, (usually a firewall) to create a VPN tunnel to accomplish any other connectivity.
2. You get what you pay for…meaning a $50 broadband circuit from the local ISP is not going to be dedicated bandwidth, its best effort, will likely fluctuate in performance and will not have service level guarantees. If you want to use internet you need to get carrier grade dedicated bandwidth preferably fiber with an SLA and it will cost you more.
3. Internet is not private, it’s a public shared network and any data you send across it should be encrypted and can still potentially be hacked.
4. We know the internet is not predictable or reliable and it doesn’t support QOS (quality of service). There is no means within the network to prioritize traffic.
5. What makes internet attractive is it is widely available and its cheap which is why we see the move towards cloud based applications. To learn more about cloud.
Here are 3 of the most secure WAN solutions:
MPLS is a secure, reliable and flexible solution for nationwide WAN connectivity. It uses carrier network transport to create private connectivity between your business locations. It is flexible because it supports multiple forms of local access. It is highly scalable ranging from a single T1 to Gigbit fiber. It is widely available and supports QOS allowing traffic prioritization in the network to support voice, video and data traffic. It is one of the most secure WAN solutions available because your network is completely isolated from all other traffic on public networks with no component of your network accessible or visible from unauthorized parties. If you can afford MPLS it is the way to go for connecting multiple business locations, and for supporting multiple applications that need to be prioritized.
2. Metro Ethernet (MOE)
Metro Ethernet Service is a flexible, easy-to-use, transport service that uses established Ethernet transport technology. Metro Ethernet allows you to connect multiple business locations within a service area using native Ethernet protocol. Metro Ethernet supports transmission speeds as low as 1 Megabits per second (Mbps) and up to 10 Gigabits per second. Metro Ethernet is also a private network and usually deployed with a bundled switch or router from the carrier that hands off a layer 2 Ethernet port making it very simple to deploy. Metro Ethernet is a little more limited in availability as it is a regulated service that is typically only available inside a specific geographic area such as state boundaries. It cannot be used across state lines. MOE is very economical for large amounts of bandwidth for example a 100mb connection for a single site can run as low as $600 per month.
3. SD-WAN (Software Defined Network)
Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) is the next evolution of private networking. SD WANuses a piece of hardware at each of your locations to create the WAN connectivity and uses software to automate the ongoing configuration of edge routers and to push traffic over a mix of of private, wireless and broadband network access. Because it can use whatever Internet connectivity a particular location has you are able to take advantage of cheaper access methods. You are essentially trading a larger one time cost of the SD WAN equipment for a lower transport access cost. SD-WAN allows you to add new locations without a lengthy deployment because it makes use of Internet connectivity rather than private network access. It allows you to optimize bandwidth as it allows you to combine multiple broadband connections. SD-WAN also simplifies complexity with remote CPE (equipment) maintenance.
There is a trend toward using the Internet, but private networks such as MPLS and Metro Ethernet will continue to play a major role in WAN architectures. According to Andrew Lerner, a research director at Gartner "Enterprises will likely favor a hybrid WAN model that uses both MPLS and high-speed Internet or carrier Ethernet in a single location or alternates between them throughout the WAN." Private, secure technologies are still the backbone of most enterprise Wide Area Networks. Few enterprises make their networking decisions solely on cost. The biggest barrier to the Internet displacement of private WAN links is the possibility of poor performance. For dedicated bandwidth, reliability and end to end QOS the most secure WAN solutions continue to be MPLS and Metro Ethernet and the newest technology SD WAN.
About the Author
Mike is CEO of Agility Communications and a telecom veteran of 20 years, having worked for CenturyLink (Qwest) and as an independent telecom consultant. His industry expertise makes him adept at advising businesses on telecom strategy, helping SMBs optimize their communications, especially in the rapidly evolving landscape of cloud services and network connectivity. He is committed to working with companies to assess their voice and data systems in an effort to remain agile and competitive in the marketplace. When he’s not creating value for customers, Mike and his family spend time outdoors and like to take in the arts. Mike is a consummate hobbyist including sports, boating and the outdoors. He loves to talk sports and is an avid Golden State Warrios fan.