Take Back the Control Plane

Much has been said about how Software Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WANs) let IT better control the flow of traffic over distance, improve security, and lower costs. Over the past months, we’ve had a few conversations with IT managers that point to a perhaps less-discussed, but even greater benefit to this new technology.

A few weeks ago I was in New York at the ONUG conference and heard one CIO bemoaning how he’d ceded control of his network to the carrier. Adds, drops, and changes all took months to implement and he had lost patience. “Let’s insource L3,” he said, “Take back the control plane and don’t muck with the data plane.”

And then a few weeks later, Adam Fuoss, our manager of systems engineering for the west coast, attended the Interface show in Denver where once again IT managers were complaining about how unhappy they were with MPLS order times and inflexibility on upgrades. One IT manager told Adam his company was running out of bandwidth, but his carrier said that an upgrade would require six months!

IT managers can spin up an LTE/4G connection in minutes or DSL in a day or two and get 50 Mbps Internet bandwidth. Having to wait months for a faster MPLS circuit is incredible in this day and age.

At the same time, IT professionals intent on moving their traffic from a private data service to the Internet will need to architect their networks to better mirror the uptime and consistency delivered by MPLS services.

SD-WANs can help by providing the intelligence that allows IT to combine alternative access technologies, such as DSL and LTE, to match the uptime of a private data service without underutilizing either line. SD-WANs can also correct the Internet’s latency and loss problems giving enterprises a better, more consistent connection.

It’s this package — the ability to fix performance, consistency, and operations problems that makes SD-WAN so compelling.

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the issues facing enterprises seeking to implement a Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) solution, as addressed in the Open Networking User Group white paper, “ONUG Software-Defined WAN Use Case”.