Guest post Event SD-WAN

Highlighting Real-World SD-WAN Deployments at VMware Explore Event

Guest post by Zeus Kerravala, Founder and Principal Analyst, ZK Research

Recently, VMware held its Explore user conference (formerly known as VMworld). As one would expect, much of the show was focused on virtualization and other technologies related to computing but, over the years, VMware has been building a strong SD-WAN solution. In 2017 the company acquired VeloCloud and has used that as the foundation for its current VMware SD-WAN™ offering. The event had several sessions on this topic. One of the more interesting ones was Evolve SD-WAN Use Cases for Enterprise, Government, Home, Cloud and Beyond, as it provided actual customer examples of SD-WAN deployments.

What’s in VMware SD-WAN, and how does it help the enterprise?

The session started with making the case for why SD-WAN is needed. Networks are growing more complex due to diverse, multi-cloud environments and distributed everything—from workforces to apps to cloud infrastructure. Hence, the traditional approach of backhauling data to the data center has become outdated and inefficient. Also, in a distributed world, there needs to be a unified approach to networking and security as cyber tools need to reach everywhere.

In the session, executives and customers positioned VMware SD-WAN as an on-ramp to cloud services. VMware SD-WAN is enabled with its own gateways in 150 global locations, as well as a wide network of gateways hosted by partners. The gateways are VMware’s key differentiator from other providers, according to director of product management Kishan Ramaswamy. With VMware’s gateways, traffic doesn’t need to be backhauled to a data center. Instead, it’s routed directly and optimized for every user. 

Gateways are the first component of the VMware SD-WAN solution. The second component is the VMware SASE Orchestrator. It is the control point of the network and enables the edge locations to establish secure connectivity. Monitoring, troubleshooting, and changing of the configurations is all done automatically as part of the service.

The third component, the VMware SD-WAN Edge, provides distributed control and flexibility to deploy physical or virtual systems in any way. VMware also has edge network intelligence that provides visibility and self-healing capabilities. No matter where users are located, they are authenticated as traffic is sent back to the cloud. For users who want to access data center apps, the traffic is securely routed through a public network or a MPLS network, with deep packet inspection and real-time traffic steering for improved performance.

“The nice thing about our solution is the fact that you take the smallest of our edges or you take the largest of our edges, and they’re identical in terms of code,” said Ramaswamy. “You’re not losing functionality if you pick a lower end device or you’re going to gain some functionality if you pick a higher end device.” The main difference among the Edge devices is throughput.

In the new release, VMWare now provides data on the type of traffic that’s flowing between the Edges and the devices—whether it’s a hub, a gateway, or another edge. Analytics and self-healing can be selected for multiple SD-WAN Edges, whereas previously, analytics could be enabled only on one Edge at a time.

VMware SD-WAN components include the Orchestrator for cloud-based provisioning and management, SD-WAN gateways with controllers for on-ramp to any cloud, and Edge for service insertion.
VMware SD-WAN components deliver network overlay simply and at scale

MetTel talks real-world SD-WAN for federal, retail and healthcare at Explore

One longtime VMware partner, MetTel, initially chose VeloCloud to upgrade MPLS networks for businesses and government agencies that use its voice, data, network, cloud, and mobility IT services. The telecom provider has 6,000 business-to-business (B2B) customers, with approximately 100 global gateways to its network.

The intelligence built into VMware SD-WAN helps tackle both real-time and non-real time traffic, which is placed into different queues and automatically receives quality of service (QoS) policies. Some traffic gets more bandwidth, depending on its level of importance. As more bandwidth-hungry apps are pushed out to the edge, SD-WAN is enabling new apps—a shopper tracker being one example. Retailers are gathering analytics in-store and using the data to improve the shopping experience because they have the bandwidth.

“Our customers, particularly on the retail side, are all clamoring for more bandwidth. As we transform their networks with SD-WAN, they’re able to do so much more,” said Ed Fox, MetTel’s chief technology officer.

On the government side, MetTel is working with the General Services Administration (GSA) to help modernize federal agency IT. At the forefront is a GSA program called Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), a contract vehicle for buying next-generation products and services. MetTel is deploying purpose-built networks for federal agencies, including the GSA. The agency wanted the flexibility of onboarding to an SD-WAN with MetTel, since certain apps still use its legacy MPLS network.

VMware SD-WAN is the only solution in the industry that’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) certified. VMware also holds the ICSA Labs certification for commercial firewall security. The certification means VMware’s solution must be in compliance with IPv6, the latest version of the Internet protocol for locating devices across the internet.

“Federal agencies are under strict requirements to connect to public clouds. The fact that we can do that straight from the gateways helps solve one of the big challenges for them,” said Fox.

With VMware SD-WAN, organizations that have the most rigorous demands can set up a solid foundation for future-proof networks, and eventually, transition to secure access service edge (SASE) where network and security converge.

On the healthcare side, VMware helped a top-five North American provider deploy an SD-WAN network to replace its aging carrier infrastructure, which affected service to hospitals. The provider struggled with uptime on its voice network, having multiple carriers to manage on voice and data side. It also lacked disaster recovery processes for moving traffic between hospitals and remote sites. Especially during weather-related disasters, the provider didn’t have a reliable way of moving traffic around. There was no central method for alarming and alerting.

MetTel initially deployed a SD-WAN network dedicated to voice, enabling the provider to handle additional calls. Moreover, MetTel implemented central incident remediation with intelligent process automation, as well as network-wide failover between hospitals. Now, every user gets the same experience on the SD-WAN network, whether it’s a doctor in a hospital, a remote clinic, or a popup COVID testing site.

About the author

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research, and provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long-term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to end-user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers.

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