Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. This is the first of a two piece series in which Simon Pamplin, EMEA Technical Sales Director for Silver Peak, looks at some of the enterprise benefits of the latest generations of wireless networking technology.
5G, also known as the fifth generation of mobile wireless technology, is one of the hottest topics in wireless circles today. Indeed, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a plethora of titles, potential use cases and detailed explanations about 5G. While telecommunications providers are in a heated competition to roll out 5G, it is important to reflect on current 4G LTE (long term evolution) business solutions as a preview of what has been learned and what’s possible.
At the same time, the enterprise has experienced its own networking revolution. As cloud computing has become the norm, and more applications and services have migrated for enterprise convenience and flexibility, IT departments have realised that traditional wide area network (WAN) architectures – utilising multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) circuits and conventional routers – cannot keep up. As such, to achieve the highest levels of application performance and security, many organisations have turned to software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), the networking technology that connects users directly and securely to applications using any underlying transport, including 4G and broadband internet.
SD-WAN enables enterprises to shift to a business-first networking model, where the network enables the business, rather than the business conforming to the constraints of existing WAN approaches. Instead of being a constraint, the WAN becomes a business accelerant that is fully automated and continuous, giving every application the resources it truly needs, while delivering 10 times the bandwidth for the same budget – ultimately achieving the highest quality of experience to users and IT alike.
This is part one of a two-part article series that will explore the effect of 4G and 5G on enterprise networking, as well as the SD-WAN journey through the evolution of these wireless technologies.
Mobile SD-WAN is a reality
4G LTE commercialisation is continuing to expand. According to the GSM (Groupe Spéciale Mobile) Association, 710 operators have rolled out 4G LTE in 217 countries, reaching 83 percent of the world’s population. The evolution of 4G is transforming the mobile industry and is setting the stage for the advent of 5G.
Mobile connectivity is increasingly integrated with SD-WAN, along with MPLS and broadband WAN services today. The reason being is that 4G LTE represents a very attractive transport alternative, as a backup or even an active member of the WAN transport mix to connect users to critical business applications. In some cases, 4G LTE might be the only choice in locations where fixed lines are not available or reachable. Furthermore, an SD-WAN can optimise 4G LTE connectivity, and bring new levels of performance and availability to mobile-based business use cases by bonding multiple 4G LTE connections to deliver the highest levels of network and application performance.
Increasing application performance and availability with 4G LTE
Best in class SD-WAN solutions enable customers to incorporate one or more low-cost 4G LTE services into the WAN transport mix. Indeed, all the capabilities of the SD-WAN platform – including packet-based link bonding, dynamic path control, and path conditioning – can be supported across multiple LTE links. This ensures always-consistent, always-available application performance even in the event of an outage or degraded service.
With an advanced business-driven SD-WAN edge platform, IT can also incorporate sophisticated network address translator (NAT) traversal technology to eliminate the requirement for provisioning the LTE service with extra-cost static IP addresses. Holistic solutions offer management software that enables the prioritisation of LTE bandwidth usage based on branch and application requirements – active-active or backup-only. This kind of solution is ideally suited toward retail point-of-sale and other deployment use cases where always-available WAN connectivity is critical for the business.
Mobile SD-WAN: innovative connectivity solutions to real world problems
An example of an innovative mobile SD-WAN service is swyMed’s DOT Telemedicine Backpack, powered by an SD-WAN hardware platform. This integrated telemedicine solution enables emergency services first responders to connect to doctors and communicate patient vital statistics using real-time video anywhere, anytime, thereby greatly improving and expediting care for emergency patients. Using a lifesaving backpack provisioned with two LTE services from different carriers, the SD-WAN can continuously monitor the underlying 4G LTE services for packet loss, latency and jitter. In the case of transport failure or brownout, the SD-WAN automatically initiates a sub-second failover so that voice, video and data connections continue without interruption over the remaining active 4G service. By bonding the two LTE links together with the SD-WAN, swyMed can achieve an aggregate signal quality in excess of 90 percent, bringing mobile telemedicine to areas that would have been impossible in the past due to poor signal strength.
Prepare for the 5G future
The adoption of 4G LTE is already a reality. As well as evangelising SD-WAN to end-users, service providers have a vital and value-added role in the design, installation, deployment, repair, and ongoing monitoring of managed SD-WAN services. Indeed, service providers are already taking advantage of the distinct benefits of SD-WAN to offer managed SD-WAN services that leverage flexible and mobile 4G LTE to their customers.
As the race for the 5G gains momentum in the UK – with it expected to be available in multiple cities this year – service providers will no doubt look for ways to drive new revenue streams to capitalise on their initial investments. The next article of this two-part series will discuss the rise of 5G, and how SD-WAN will help service providers to transition from 4G to 5G, as well as enable the monetisation of a new wave of managed 5G services.
Simon Pamplin is the EMEA Technical Sales Director for Silver Peak and a regular speaker at events on topics ranging from the latest storage technologies and server virtualisation to the current shift in data networking towards SD-WAN, as well as the latest developments in the technology. With over 20 years’ experience in enterprise IT, Simon has worked for IP, SAN and hyper-convergent companies and is driven by new technology and the business benefits it can bring.