Why SD-WAN could be the antidote for WFH woes

The initial rush to enable work-from-home during a global pandemic had businesses flocking to cloud-based UCaaS—which has limitations when deployed over traditional WANs. A better long-term solution could be SD-WAN, which optimizes available residential bandwidth.

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SD-WAN could solve WFH UCaaS woes

None of us ever thought Fortnite and Tiger King would directly interfere with our work productivity like this, but here we are.

The coronavirus lockdown has many people in work-from-home (WFH) mode, which sounds kind of awesome in theory. (What’s not to like about napping on the couch after a virtual meeting?) In reality, however, many WFH warriors are discovering that their virtual work meetings are battling for home Internet superiority with their kid’s PS4 addiction and their better half’s Netflix bingeing.

It’s a conundrum that could end up sparking more interest in SD-WAN.

UCaaS and SD-WAN

The initial rush to enable WFH due to COVID-19 had businesses flocking to videoconferencing apps. That, in turn, fueled a recognition that cloud-based UCaaS provides the flexibility and agility needed for a remote fleet of WFH staff.

In a column for No Jitter, however, analyst Zeus Kerravala cautions that “UCaaS comes with certain limitations when implemented over traditional WANs, which weren’t designed to support real-time communications in the cloud.”

The better option for UCaaS deployment, he argues, is SD-WAN.

“It’s best to opt for a highly scalable SD-WAN that can be deployed per location as a physical appliance, virtually, or directly in the cloud without worrying about overhauling the entire WAN infrastructure,” Kerravala suggests.

Since not all SD-WANs are alike, he recommends one that’s intended for both hybrid and multi-cloud environments and “works over MPLS, broadband, cellular, satellite or any other transport.” He adds that “full-featured SD-WAN solutions can be released in overlay mode with an existing WAN, easing the transition to UCaaS.”


SD-WAN could solve WFH UCaaS woes

Analyst Roopashree Honnachari takes a deeper look at the appeal of SD-WAN for COVID-19 WFH enablement in a recent report for Frost & Sullivan.

“Considering that remote workers are often dependent on a single residential broadband link at their home, SD-WAN can bring tremendous value to users by optimizing the link through continuous monitoring and congestion mitigation features. SD-WAN solutions provide private network reliability and security over residential broadband links while providing a direct, optimized connectivity to the cloud,” she writes.

As spelled out in Honnachari’s report, SD-WAN …

  • optimizes available residential bandwidth by “giving higher priority to business traffic compared to social media, YouTube and Netflix traffic”
  • continuously monitors the traffic path for loss and delay, and applies forward error correction to reduce packet loss and increase throughput
  • unlike traditional home VPN access, doesn’t require backhauling traffic to the corporate data centre; this reduces unnecessary delays and improves performance for users accessing cloud-based applications
  • can be “easily” installed by “any novice user at home … with the ability for the IT administrator to provision and manage the device remotely”
  • allows network admins to apply policies to remote locations that prioritize business critical applications over other applications

None of these considerations has resulted in a sudden COVID-related spike in demand for SD-WAN. In Honnachari’s opinion though, it’s not a bad idea to start planning for that kind of scenario now.

“Vendors and service providers never expected remote workers to represent potential for SD-WAN deployment. That will be changing soon,” she writes in her report.

Read more:

Why SD-WAN is poised to take off in 2020
How SD-Internet can boost business connectivity
Are you ready for next-gen UC?

Edge and elasticity

In a Tech Target article exploring the ‘new’ COVID era of enterprise IT, Cisco’s Steven Wood says SD-WAN, along with distributed edge computing, will play an important role in making the network much more elastic, particularly for WFH purposes.

“Elasticity is key,” Wood, Cisco’s principal engineer of enterprise architecture and SD-WAN, told the publication. “What we’re seeing, especially now with the COVID-19 pandemic, is the future of networking is going to be like the cloud. We need to have elasticity so people can turn up, turn down and expand infrastructure on demand.”

All of this could bode well for SD-WAN, which has taken a bit of a hit since the pandemic began. Vertical Systems Group has downgraded its forecast for the U.S. SD-WAN market “due to the impact of COVID-19.” It now expects the market to grow by just 17 per cent in 2020, down from triple-digit growth last year.

Although Vertical Systems believes “some planned SD-WAN implementations are (being) deferred” as companies adjust their IT budget priorities in light of coronavirus, it believes the SD-WAN market will start to rebound late this year.

If (or when) it does, WFH workers may get to experience the most noticeable benefit of SD-WAN highlighted in Honnachari’s report. In her words, SD-WAN ensures that every real-time business application urgently needed by a WFH warrior “will always get priority over a user trying to stream video on Netflix.”

Take that, Tiger King.

Images: damircudic/iStock; golero/iStock

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