It’s not hard to explain the high interest in software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) technology. Enterprises are looking for an efficient, flexible way to boost bandwidth while at the same time reducing costs, and SD-WAN technology increasingly fits that bill.
One enterprise that has proven this approach out is Gerresheimer AG, a leading global partner to the pharma and healthcare industry. Gerresheimer is in the process of rolling out Silver Peak SD-WAN technology to 43 locations and it is already over 40 percent deployed. The goal was to leverage Internet-enabled SD-WAN to boost bandwidth in an economical way while at the same time reducing the dependence on MPLS circuits.
Greg Taylor, the manager of IT infrastructure of Gerresheimer, says that moving to the Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN solution had multiple benefits. Not only was the company able to boost the bandwidth from the average location from 3 Megabit/sect (Mbps) to as much as 200 Mbps, but the introduction of SD-WAN also enabled it to negotiate better terms on its existing MPLS circuits, increasing them from 3 Mbps to 10 Mbps for the same price. The net result, according to Taylor, was savings of about $10,000 annually while more than tripling bandwidth.
“We were a T-1 and MPLS company with really small 3 Mbps pipes,” says Taylor. “It was like trying to sip a thick milkshake through a thin straw. SD-WAN made sense for adding bandwidth without increasing costs.”
Now Gerresheimer’s WAN can seamlessly blend 10 Mbps MPLS circuits with SD-WAN connections that utilize broadband Internet to deliver up to 200 Mbps to some sites.
“We are now saving approximately $30,000 [over three years] and getting an increase in speed,” says Taylor. “The performance increase is dramatic.”
Taylor says the company also has more control over policies for specific applications running on the network. For example, the SD-WAN has a business intent or virtual overlay that enables higher performance for video and voice.
The selection process was not easy because of a number of solutions available on the market, said Taylor. In addition, Gerresheimer has a base in Europe that was partial to managed MPLS offerings from incumbent service providers.
This is why SD-WAN made a lot of sense. Because SD-WAN can integrate broadband Internet with existing MPLS circuits it enables a hybrid WAN.
“We looked at all the options including carriers,” says Taylor. He said the strength of Silver Peak was its ease of use and adaptability. “If we get a new carrier we can just plug it in.”
Gerresheimer’s situation is representative of many of the user case studies we have found here at Futuriom research. Many enterprises are turning to SD-WAN because of its flexibility, cost savings, and capabilities to build hybrid WANs that incorporate existing WAN technology such as MPLS.
Most enterprises are not going to drop their MPLS and move to Internet-based SD-WANs exclusively. They may want to retain MPLS for specific data center applications or as a parallel network that can also be used for redundancy. Hybrid capabilities are key.
One key trend highlighted by Gerresheimer is that SD-WAN put more power into the hands of enterprise end users, who are no longer captive to specific service provider solutions. CIOs and IT managers are seeking more flexibility in connecting branches with a software-driven model that can get branches and offices up and running quickly, without the need for complicated network configurations or proprietary installations.
In today’s modern network, applications and traffic flows change more frequently. Managers need a software-based deployment model that allows them to centrally control WAN configurations. In addition, as enterprises make the migration to the cloud and move away from data center hosted applications, they are going to increasingly turn to Internet-based connections to connect users directly from branch sites. SD-WAN solutions enable this while at the same time upgrading Internet broadband to provide secure, enterprise-grade connections that can often provide much higher speed at a lower cost than legacy private lines.