WAN Technologies

For most of business enterprises their Wide Area Network (WAN) infrastructure will be one of their biggest operational expenses in terms of total cost of networking all branch sites to corporate. 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.

WAN service providers include carriers, such as the telephone network, cable company, or satellite service. Service providers provide links to interconnect remote sites for the purpose of transporting data, voice, and video.

Without WANs, LANs(local area networks) would be a series of isolated networks. LANs provide both speed and cost-efficiency for transmitting data over relatively small geographic areas. However, as organizations expand, businesses require communication among geographically separated sites.

Here are 3 common reasons you want to deploy a WAN

  • Branch offices need to be able to communicate and share data with your data center or corporate office.
  • Your organization needs to share information with customer organizations such as distributor communicating product and pricing info with organizations that sell its product.
  • Remote employees who need access to information on the corporate network.

Its not feasible to connect computers around the world with your own physical cables so different technologies have been developed to make that connection and often times it involves leasing connectivity from carriers with large world wide networks.

Here are 3 commonly used WAN technologies:

Point to point Ethernet (MOE metro optical ethernet)

Metro Ethernet Service is a flexible, easy-to-use, transport service that uses established Ethernet transport technology. Ethernet allows you to connect multiple business locations within a service area using native Ethernet protocol. Ethernet supports transmission speeds as low as 1 Megabits per second (Mbps) and up to 10 Gigabits per second. 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 that can be connected directly into network switch. 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.

MPLS fully meshed (all sites can talk to all sites)

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.

Software Defined VPN (SD WAN)

Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) is the next evolution of private networking. SD WAN uses 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 connectivity a particular location has, you are able to take advantage of cheaper access methods. 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.


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