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Software-defined networking (SDN) is the ability to consolidate network functions and brainpower into a single abstracted layer. Not only is this a time saver, it's also a resource saver. Companies won't have to add switches and routers to individual locations; they can make all devices work together regardless of location.
By taking SDN one step further, we now have software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) technology that allows us to control our wide area network in much the same way. One of the benefits of SD-WAN is it uses circuits of various speeds and quality, bring them together and control them all as if they were one.
For instance, in the case of unified communications, you could set voice over IP packets to run over dedicated MPLS and set less bandwidth-intensive applications to run on less expensive DSL circuits. You could also bring together several slower circuits to process end-to-end communications based on the application.
Another benefit of SD-WAN for a UC deployment is the technology can decide the best way to route packets via algorithms making the best and most speed-effective decisions while processing other packets with lower priority in other ways. As the faster and more expensive circuits free up, SD-WAN technology can use those circuits for a bit and then throttle back to slower circuits throughout the day as traffic needs dictate.
If a company compares MPLS circuits to less expensive and slower circuits, the payback -- even after new hardware is purchased -- could be in a relatively short time frame. It also means you don't need to be a network engineer to configure networks or WAN connections. A major benefit of SD-WAN is the equipment takes care of the traffic based on supplied information like where traffic needs to go and at what priority.
If we add UC apps to the mix, the possibilities are pretty spectacular. The cost of MPLS circuits alone has been a barrier to smaller companies moving to UC. The benefits of SD-WAN make many of these barriers non-issues.
It's only a matter of time before the competition of cost and variety of equipment will drive companies to SD-WAN technology. There may even be a push from WAN vendors, as it is more economical for them to provide an increased number of slower circuits than build out to provide a few higher speed circuits. Most of the carrier head ends are already built out with slower circuits due to legacy business. Using them to their full advantage allows the carriers to offer a greater variety of choices to companies.
The benefits of SD-WAN offer a nice mix and match of ingredients for a great UC app recipe.
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