Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. This is the second 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.
This is the second of a two-part article series that explores SD-WAN and the future of networking in the 5G era. The first looked at how established 4G LTE connectivity, partnered with software-defined WANs (SD-WANs), have contributed to changing the way users connect to applications, particularly for ‘on-the-go’ requirements and in hard to reach locations.
5G: forging the new ultra-high speed, hyperconnected world
Following the 5G spectrum auction in the UK back in April of 2018, telecommunications providers are now racing to roll out the fifth generation of mobile wireless technology to meet today’s explosive bandwidth and network connectivity demands. 5G is poised to revolutionise several industries by bringing significantly faster connections, shorter delays and increased connectivity for users. It will aid the expansion of IoT, creating a virtual network of ultra-high-speed connections across multiple devices.
According to Gartner, two thirds of large organisations have plans to deploy 5G by 2020. However, a full end-to-end deployment will take many more years. The firm also projects that the lack of readiness of communications service providers to meet enterprise demands in time will be a major issue.
Looking at the near term, service providers have to provide means to enable use cases – such us IoT communications, enhanced mobile broadband, fixed wireless access along with high-performance edge analytics – without having the benefit of an end-to-end 5G network. This is all while contending with sky high user expectations.
SD-WAN is one of those enabling technologies that will help service providers to deliver a higher quality of network experience that is tailored to the customer’s needs, while managing the transition to a complete end-to-end 5G infrastructure for delivery.
5G: on the edge
According to Gartner, the number of IoT devices is set to rise to more than 20 billion by 2020. IoT connectivity across more and more devices will drive the processing of high volumes of data at high speed – one of the core promises of 5G. This influx of data must be ingested and processed both in real time, and as close to the source as possible, ultimately driving the need for edge computing.
While 5G provides higher bandwidth, it is more limited in range. It is anticipated that 5G networks will be powered by hundreds of thousands of small cells. Denser networks of cells will make it more difficult for operators to operate, manage and maintain. As such, the optimisation of these networks will be key to deliver the best possible network performance and maintain the highest quality of experience to end users.
The emergence of 5G will not only change end users’ expectations when it comes to always-on connectivity and low latency, it will also transform the way enterprises manage their networks. Strong demands on real-time network monitoring across transport connectivity and traffic management optimisation will drive the need for automation.
SD-WAN can hold the 5G ends together but what features will be most valuable?
SD-WAN connects users to applications securely and directly using any combination of underlying transport, including MPLS, 4G LTE and internet. As companies roll out 5G in the UK, businesses with SD-WANs deployed on the network will have the ability to transition key parts or locations over to the latest high-speed, high-performance connectivity.
An SD-WAN platform that enables automation will help service providers to easily connect to and integrate across all the different compute edges required to optimise the traffic and management of 5G cells. This will enable a seamless transition towards a full 5G infrastructure by managing any transport available across the edge, leveraging 5G transport for those critical applications that require zero latency and higher speeds.
To guarantee the highest quality of experience for users, service providers need to evaluate SD-WAN vendors. The best vendors and solutions will be those that are able to offer advanced features. One of these is granular, intelligent application-driven routing. In Layman’s terms, this means the SD-WAN can automatically prioritise high-bandwidth, or business critical, traffic (like video streaming) to a 5G cell and manage failovers, while lower bandwidth traffic is routed to another transport available (such as LTE or broadband internet).
Moreover, centralised orchestration and management capabilities can facilitate easier operation, management and maintenance of edges and 5G cells by intelligently rerouting traffic during cell provisioning or upgrades. It also enables faster policy-based provisioning of WAN services to support any device – a must for IoT.
With business around the world ramping up cyber defences, an SD-WAN that also unifies security features with business intent networking is more favourable. These enable the centralised enforcement of granular, application-driven security policies by identifying, classifying and automatically steering traffic to the right security services without compromising either performance or cost.
Enterprises expect the best quality of service (QoS) that applications demand and SD-WAN solutions with virtual WAN overlays can allow for a more efficient and flexible allocation of network resources. Similarly, 5G networks rely on network slicing, where each slice receives a unique set of optimised resources and network topology. By using both technologies together, service providers can steer mission-critical traffic to the 5G network, where it can be isolated to a particular slice depending on the specific application requirements.
Lastly, as SD-WAN continues to evolve, emerging technologies will be incorporated to further enhance the user experience. Today, SD-WAN solutions that utilise machine learning separate themselves from the crowd. These can automatically adapt to varying network conditions in real time and provide optimal routing to the edges and the 5G small cells.
5G & SD-WAN: powering forward-thinking businesses
The adoption of 5G and edge computing will drive higher expectations from end users and enterprises for an always-on, high performing network and applications. The initial success of 5G deployments will demand an automated, self-driving wide area network foundation with underlay intelligence that delivers the highest quality of experience for users, such as the one offered by SD-WAN. Additionally, advanced business-driven SD-WAN platforms will empower service providers with ways to accelerate new revenue streams from 5G-enabled managed services rather than just as a transport connection.
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.