COVID-19 lockdown effect: As stress on networks swell, SD-WAN plays the timely stress buster
Since the lockdown in Italy, WhatsApp witnessed a 20% year-on-year increase in the number of messages and calls, and Microsoft saw 100% growth in usage of enterprise productivity applications. In Spain Telefonica’s Movistar, Orange, Vodafone, Masmovil and Euskaltel say that IP network traffic had increased by 40%, while mobile had increased 50% for voice and 25% for data.
Sharing these data is Kishor Panpaliya, VP of Americas and APAC of Enea Openwave. Adding more to the data, Panpaliya says that his company Enea Openwave’s analysis showed that in Italy peak throughput on the mobile network increased by 80 – 90% in the first few weeks of lockdown. In Spain, during the first week of the lockdown, the mobile network experienced a 35% increase in throughput and over fixed networks it was 50%. In Italy, Spain and in most other countries, the increase in the volume of data was mainly being driven by video.
To please their users, many operators in the UK responded by generously offering free packages to help subscribers during these difficult times. Few American operators gave away unlimited data for 60 days and Telefonica Spain provided 30GB and unlimited TV content, Vodafone is giving away unlimited data, says Panpaliya.
Indranil Chatterjee, Sr. Vice President of Products, Sales & Marketing, Enea Openwave, indicated that traffic volumes with high-resolution videos are growing exponentially, as mobile internet makes its way to even larger populations. Approximately 70 percent of data consumption is streaming video traffic – amounting to more than 1.65 billion hours per month – and Indian subscribers are making full use of seamless video quality and cheaper data rates. The current networks are running at full capacity and in some cases overcapacity leading to acute congestion and user experience issues.
So, in this time of crisis (caused by lockdown-induced network demand), CSPs are challenged with managing their networks in a doubly-efficient way. In handling the unprecedented demand, operators are constantly exploring various network management tools to manage operations and to ensure that congestion-free traffic and secure data access is delivered to the end-user.
There may be several tools to manage the networks, but the obvious winner in scaling-up network operations during this lockdown time is Software Defined – Wide Area Network (SD-WAN). With its inherent flexibility, high reliability, and lower costs it is the platform of choice for CSPs to manage their business services in today’s scenario.
Consuming SD-WAN as a managed service is desirable for many organizations looking to outsource the complexity of WAN connectivity to remote branch locations. This inherent complexity is also why many CSPs are finding it difficult to operationalize managed SD-WAN solutions, at scale, to profitably compete with non-facilities based MSPs and other providers leveraging leading edge SD-WAN technology.
Getting SD-WAN to do its part
Realizing the inherent capabilities, CSPs in many countries have now escalated their SD-WAN solutions into their existing managed business services portfolios, which include MPLS, ethernet, 4G and even 5G. SDN technology applied to certain WAN connections such as broadband internet, 4G, LTE, etc can pay off in big time.
Vali Mohammed Sunesara, Systems Engineering Manager, India & SAARC, Juniper Networks, says that Juniper Networks believes that CSPs will triumph by integrating SD-WAN with their IP MPLS VPN services. Commenting further Sunesara says, “The key to remaining competitive is to offer a service mix architecture, so that CSPs can sell value and ensure that their customers are not completely offloaded to best-effort Internet services. This will help keep the balance between services that have been offloaded to the public cloud and private cloud in conjunction with a SD-WAN solution. SD-WAN makes use of programmable network devices that can be modified remotely, coupled with dynamic best-path routing, which will improve cost, agility, and performance of the network. While the rise of alternate WAN services is expected to take a significant bite out of CSPs’ IP MPLS VPNs revenue streams, options exist to give CSPs the power to exploit the SD-WAN opportunity while also protecting their customer bases.”
At times like this when the networks have to perform under pressure, telcos can start with deploying a scalable, cloud-based SD-WAN solution that is open, with high performance and embedded security, and can be integrated into their current IP MPLS VPN offering.
Sunesara also says that at times like this when the networks have to perform under pressure, telcos can start with deploying a scalable, cloud-based SD-WAN solution that is open, with high performance and embedded security, and can be integrated into their current IP MPLS VPN offering. Furthermore, as telcos continue building distributed clouds for their applications, they can leverage the same network infrastructure to build a distributed IT/Enterprise cloud. This will enable the delivery of enterprise applications in a private cloud environment along with an SD-WAN solution.
Substantiating the advantages of SD-WAN, Rajagopalan Rajappa – Deputy CTO & Head of Network Transformation Technologies at Tata Elxsi, says, “Given the current pandemic crisis, we see that more and more enterprise users are operating remotely leveraging virtual collaborative tools and solutions like VoIP, video conferencing, and virtualized applications, desktops that results in an enormous surge of voice, video and data traffic. Remote working through collaborative mode requires provisioning of millions of secure connectivity solution almost on real-time with capabilities of IP VPNs, additional layers and partitioning of enterprise networks, increased bandwidth, virtualized application Firewall, application-aware routing and dynamic security updates with overall programmable policies. SD-WAN being an overlay technology with virtualized environments only at User and Enterprises end with programmable virtualized routers eases the unprecedented demand and enables anywhere, secure collaborative work environment for large- and small-scale businesses.
SD-WAN supports application level awareness and can bring in SLA driven traffic steering based on dynamic path selections giving bandwidth priority to the most critical applications as well as handle traffic bursting by selectively balancing the load.
Rajappa further says that operators/enterprises who have deployed SD-WAN solutions can bring in better control and management to the real-time network traffic and can help prioritize traffic and improve reliability. SD-WAN supports application-level awareness and can bring in SLA driven traffic steering based on dynamic path selections giving bandwidth priority to the most critical applications as well as handle traffic bursting by selectively balancing the load. With its ability to support real-time dynamic policy management based on the insights from network performance monitoring and closed-loop operations, SD-WAN can definitely prove to be a promising solution to operators/enterprises to handle the WAN traffic surge.
Sharing more on the technical advantages of SD-WAN, Rajesh Maurya, Regional Vice President, India & SAARC, Fortinet, says that an SD-WAN solution provides significant advantages for remote workers, especially during times of rapid transition. Maurya believes that it is not only an ideal solution for branch offices, but can also be deployed to support power users, such as remote IT technical support, emergency support teams, and executives who need secure access to a wide range of network services.
“The sudden spike in Internet traffic due to COVID-19, as working from home is the new normal. Users are utilizing more and more internet traffic whereas service provider internet pipes have not increased proportionately. This spike is not just because of home office, virtual meetings but also due to more usage for online contents such as Netflix, Amazon primes, etc. This means more internet usage and less use of MPLS links. This is where SD-WAN can help service providers to use internet links effectively,” opines Maurya.
SD-WAN can enable service providers to let customers effectively utilize the Internet bandwidth by prioritizing business applications, office applications, cloud applications and voice over less critical and bandwidth-consuming applications such as IPTV, video contents, etc.
Adding more details, Maurya indicates that SD-WAN can enable service providers to let customers effectively utilize the Internet bandwidth by prioritizing business applications, office applications, cloud applications and voice over less critical and bandwidth-consuming applications such as IPTV, video contents, etc. SD-WAN solution possesses the ability to provide deep visibility of applications, which service providers can use to define the traffic shaping, QoS and rate limiting.
Service providers can act as SD-WAN Gateway between WFH users and of its corporate office applications and cloud applications in case customer has AWS direct connect/Azure express route to cloud providers. This is by mapping WFH user IPSec tunnels to his office MPLS VRF and extend access to his corporate office over MPLS and then to cloud through AWS direct connect / Azure express route.
This will lead to another opportunity for service providers to enable organizations by providing WFH infrastructure (who do not have) such as IPSec VPN Gateway, Authentication, and 2FA. SDWAN will again help in meeting the required performance SLA, assures Maurya.
Leveraging SD-WAN now pays future fortunes
IDC’s research on SD-WAN says that the transformation through this software technology is expected to become a $4.5 billion market opportunity between now and 2021. It is only fair to say that Covid-19 lockdown has played to the advantage of SD-WAN. As a great deal of value of any SD-WAN solution lies in the services that are attached to it, this technology can be considered an enabler and facilitator for many services that CSPs can plan for in the future.