The WAN Edge Needs A Safety Net

Edge continues to be a large focus for IT Professionals worldwide. As the world adjusts to a new normal, data is being consumed at an ever-increasing rate with Online Meetings, Video Presentations and SaaS software and services dominating knowledge workers’ days. The high cost of equipment and leased lines are prohibitive to IT budgets. Keeping up with the needs of a branch office in 2020 is difficult, and more importantly expensive, often forcing difficult decisions on everyday needs.

SD-WAN is quickly becoming the standard deployment for organizations worldwide for many reasons. One of its many benefits is that it helps combat inflated budgets and limited functionality in traditional WAN offerings. While these new offerings provide the ability to use commodity connectivity and include additional functionality at the Edge, they fail to deliver on a key feature that is required by IT departments, failsafe access in outage scenarios. Out-of-Band (OOB) options should be included in any branch office and data center build out. This has not been the case with early adoption of SD-WAN, as organizations are often led to believe it’s not necessarily needed.

SD-WAN Opportunities and Limitations

Most SD-WAN solutions support service orchestration (mainly cloud-based) from the central controller, reducing human intervention so the end user has to do little, to nothing. The devices call home and the bootstrap, configuration and management processes are engaged automatically.

All of this however, relies on the SD-WAN working well. As the SD-WAN starts to waver and begins to fail you cannot always rely on the SD-WAN to fix its own problems. Under those circumstances it will likely lose communications with the central controller and go offline, and someone has to diagnose and/or replace appliances since the umbilical cord is cut.

SD-WAN nodes will occasionally go offline or struggle and there’s no inbuilt magic to stop it. The reasons may vary but an offline SD-WAN node is a big deal and it may happen through –

  • Last Mile Connectivity Failures (i.e. massive link failures)
  • Configuration/Firmware Corruption (fat fingers and flash problems)
  • Hardware Appliance Frozen/Hung (Bugs with immature SW)
  • Appliance Cyber-attack/vulnerability DDOS (hacking…)
  • Power Glitch (reboot into a bad state)

Often SD-WAN is sold as ultra-reliable because it supports bandwidth aggregation and traffic splitting over multiple disparate links (cable, xDSL, MPLS, fiber…) with flexible use-cases because it employs methods to prioritize traffic according to application latency. However, SD-WAN does introduce new limitations which include reduced access to supported hardware, difficult to configure advanced features, and varied access or no access to remote trouble shooting.

Enterprises need an independent management plane to manage and recover SD-WAN nodes when sites have or are beginning to fail. An Out-of-Band network enables remote set up, ongoing maintenance and disaster recovery of many infrastructure components. These include mission critical IT, power and network infrastructure.

By moving computation to the data, as opposed to moving data to the computation, businesses get unmatched speed and effectiveness in managing remote devices.  You have options for understanding what happened in real time and getting productivity back without the added burden of having to be onsite. Enterprises need to ensure improved resiliency for SD-WAN and the rest of the edge network. Using Out-of-Band provides a safety net, around the WAN edge where virtualized customer premises equipment (vCPE) platforms and SD-WAN software are set to boom.


Author's Bio

Todd Rychecky

VP of Sales- Americas, Opengear