Sep 22, 2016
Disaster recovery is certainly an interesting topic. Prior to my analyst days, I was in corporate IT and was part of a number of disaster recovery (DR) teams. It’s my sense that most organizations are very effective on the planning side but not very effective with executing on those plans. I say this tongue-in-cheek but there is some truth to it. One of the reasons why disaster recovery is so hard to execute is because keeping the backup environment in lock step with the production environment is very difficult to do in any cost-effective way. SD-WAN can make that easier.
The dynamic nature of an SD-WAN makes it ideal for an unpredictable environment such as running in disaster recovery mode. The goal for a disaster recovery plan isn’t to identically replicate the production environment but ensure that all critical services are available to the users that need it, ideally without a degraded experience. The network plays a key role in DR as it enables remote sites to connect, data to be backed up and workers to access critical applications. An SD-WAN addresses all of these issues much better than legacy WANs.
With many of the DR plans I’ve seen, application performance is often sacrificed, as the same level of network resources are not available. The thought being that if the company is in DR mode, then any level of application performance should be sufficient. This may have been ok in the past but in today’s highly competitive digital world, customer experience means everything. Any kind of degraded experience means lost productivity and possibly lost customers.
The most obvious and basic benefit of SD-WANs is that they are much lower cost than traditional network services like MPLS so creating comparable network connections for the backup environment is no longer cost prohibitive.
Cost is only one factor and, while important, isn’t the most critical one. SD-WANs are dynamic and adaptable to the different applications that flow over them. Businesses can set policies on an SD-WAN to ensure the mission critical and real time applications, like VoIP are performing well. Organizations can dedicate bandwidth to the applications that matter most and then go best effort on the others. If things in the environment change, an SD-WAN can adapt quickly, sometimes without any human intervention. The same can’t be said for legacy telecom connections that often require long lead times to make changes.
Also, the WAN optimization capabilities built into many SD-WAN solutions enable organizations to place DR facilities in areas of lower costs with cheaper power and not have to worry about the distance between data centers. For example, many New York City based firms use New Jersey as a backup location so they can use high-speed metro connections. One of the reasons why WAN optimization grew as fast as it did was because it gave businesses LAN like performance over the wide area network. Customers would often tell me that the long distance sites that have WAN optimization deployed at them offered better performance than closer branch sites that were not optimized. So why not use this benefit to strategically locate backup data centers?
Another consideration point is storage replication. Some SD-WAN providers have strong data center-to-data center replication capabilities. Data continues to grow at an unprecedented rate and while many businesses are pushing this content to the public cloud, there is an equal amount of growth in private clouds. Given the projected growth in data over the next few years, businesses cannot use traditional backup techniques to copy data between locations. Solutions like Silver Peak’s Replication Acceleration can replicate faster over long distances and shrink recovery point objects down to times that can meet the demands of digital organizations.
As businesses become more reliant on their technology infrastructure, disaster recovery planning will increase in importance. IT leaders should look to SD-WAN to increase the level of network agility, enable applications to perform better and enable faster replication all at a lower cost.