The reality of mobile SD-WAN – the missing link for enterprise 5G?

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.

 

100508_Simon Pamplin_v1Simon 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.

The reality of mobile SD-WAN – what 4G LTE made possible

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.

 

100508_Simon Pamplin_v1Simon 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.