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Silver Peak Delivers SD WAN Overlay

Many enterprise communications managers would love the ability to use broadband Internet connections -- wired or wireless -- for latency-sensitive applications with the same level of confidence they have in their pricey private links. That's long been a pipe dream, so to speak -- and hence one reason for the rising interest in software-defined WAN, or SD WAN.

Chris Edwards, vice president of information systems for Group Dekko, a provider of workspace power solutions, is no exception. In a conversation this morning, Edwards told me he welcomes the opportunity to leverage the Internet connections the company uses at its eight domestic manufacturing locations while reducing its reliance on the multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network it has had in place for the last eight or nine years.

To do so, Edwards plans on taking advantage of SD WAN technology introduced today by Silver Peak, the company Group Dekko already looks to for WAN acceleration. Silver Peak enters the SD WAN fray with the Unity EdgeConnect, a physical or virtual appliance through which companies like Group Dekko can create virtual network overlays for secure, reliable, and cost-effective broadband connectivity from remote locations.

With Unity EdgeConnect, enterprises can connect their branches together independently of the services they're using, whether MPLS, DSL, cable, wireless, or whatever, Silver Peak CEO David Hughes told me in briefing. "It lets you mix and match carriers very easily and allows for zero-touch provisioning without expertise in the branch."

Unity EdgeConnect's four key capabilities are as follows:

In addition, the Unity EdgeConnect solution includes Unity Orchestrator, for visibility and control; and Unity Boost, an optional add-on performance pack for accelerating traffic across network connections -- i.e., Silver Peak's longtime specialty, Hughes said. Unity Boost mitigates latency to optimize application performance and improve response time across the WAN, and applies compression and de-duplication techniques to reduce the amount of data sent across the WAN.

Pricing for Unity EdgeConnect begins at $199 per site, per month. Pricing for the optional Unity Boost performance pack is based on the network-wide aggregate bandwidth to be optimized. Unity EdgeConnect, Unity Orchestrator, and Unity Boost are all available as of today.

For Group Dekko, moving VoIP and some virtualized apps to Internet connections has been an iffy proposition. "Everything might be fine for three or four days, but then we'll see a spike of latency to 800 or 900 milliseconds, and we get dropped packets on our voice calls and dropped sessions on the VMware side," Edwards said. An SD WAN overlay that sends traffic over the best connection and automatically re-routes as needed would fix this problem, he added.

Group Dekko will begin building its SD WAN overlay in the first quarter of next year, as its current leased-line contracts begin expiring, Edwards said. Depending on the type of link in place, the per-location savings should be anywhere between 15 and 30% as the SD WAN technology manages traffic flows across the MPLS, Internet, and even point-to-point wireless links, he added.

One day, should the quality of Internet links continue improving, Edwards said, Group Dekko may not need an underlying MPLS network at all.

He's not alone in envisioning such a future. As Hughes said, "Just like frame relay replaced private lines and MPLS replaced frame relay, we think SD WAN's impact will be just as dramatic. It's inevitable that everybody will be deploying virtualized WANs."

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