Utilizing traffic steering, improving QoS, and realizing other SD-WAN benefits without compromising security, simplicity, and scale
SD-WAN hasn’t always been the cool kid at the table. It took a while to gain the trust of network admins and IT teams while taking MPLS’ proverbial lunch money. And now, with LTE and 5G gaining widespread traction in enterprise networking, SD-WAN is navigating yet another growth spurt as it evolves once more.
SD-WAN's journey from MPLS replacement to cellular-integrated networking solution
Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) was a tried-and-true method for routing enterprise network traffic for more than a decade. Known for its scalability, reliability, and performance, MPLS allows enterprises to reliably connect locations like remote branches and data centers. So, why is this technology becoming less common among modern-day enterprises?
The main reason is that MPLS is really expensive, and as more businesses adopt cloud-based services and networks become increasingly complex, MPLS becomes less efficient and cost-effective. Many businesses have replaced MPLS with SD-WAN technologies, which allow them to prioritize network traffic. This enables the network to match the needs of the business through WAN optimization, traffic handling, and link bonding.
However, even with SD-WAN's ample popularity, the technology has been forced to adapt as enterprises rely less on wired connections and more on 5G. Compared to traditional connectivity options, 5G and LTE provide much more scalability to allow enterprises to expand. LTE and 5G also add another flexible type of connectivity to SD-WAN's existing capabilities by enabling reliable WAN diversity with low latency and increased bandwidth. Cloud-managed 5G solutions that support wired and wireless links, including multiple network operators simultaneously, open up the flexibility to steer traffic between carriers and offer deep insights into cellular health and data usage.
SD-WAN’s application-first approach is evolving with 5G technology to orchestrate traffic flows for optimal quality of experience (QoE), quality of service (QoS), and reliability. QoS — a network’s ability to achieve maximum bandwidth and deal with other performance elements such as latency, error rate, and uptime — is a critical element of any network deployment because it determines how and where an application’s data flows and the user experience within the network.
Visit Cradlepoint's SD-WAN webpage to learn more about SD-WAN's capabilities and how it can accommodate 5G technology.
SD-WAN traffic steering
Traffic steering is a huge piece of the SD-WAN puzzle. This is the ability of a software-defined router to steer different sources of traffic to specific WAN links based on priority, use case, and the cloud-managed policies put into place by the IT team. The ultra-low latency of 5G networks and general improvements in broadband quality and capacity make cellular-optimized SD-WAN traffic steering highly valuable in enterprise networking.
5G network slicing
To better understand how cellular and SD-WAN solutions can work together to improve network performance, it’s important to consider network slicing — a key capability of 5G infrastructure that provides the ability to partition radio spectrum into different slices. Each of these network slices has its own performance characteristics and network protocol information. For example, applications that process large amounts of data, such as point-of-sale (POS) systems, might be placed on a network slice that allows for high data bandwidth.
Combining next-gen network security with SD-WAN and 5G
SD-WAN solutions should be built with key security principles in mind as IoT evolves, networks become increasingly complex, and workforces become more remote. Adopting zero trust strategies is a key component of a scalable, unified security posture.
What is Zero Trust Network Access?
Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), a key component of 5G security at the network’s edge, is a flexible security service built on the assumption that anyone trying to access a network is a bad actor. With 5G, the authentication process is fast, and data encryption standards provide the trust enterprises are looking for.
For a solution like Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Exchange (NCX) SD-WAN to be effective, it should be adaptive, include zero-trust principles, and leverage secure tunnels and an end-to-end hub-and-spoke network model. This simplifies network rollouts and the transition from wired to wireless WAN by supporting overlapping IP addresses, isolating user to application access, and hiding the network from prying eyes — all common pain points for network administrators.
NCX SD-WAN is built upon the zero trust principles of NCX Secure Connect, which enables end-to-end encrypted communications between hybrid WAN routers to applications in the data center and cloud. It does this through automation, intuitive orchestration, and name-based routing, allowing enterprises to scale without data breaches across their ever-expanding attack surfaces.
How are SD-WAN and 5G used in retail applications?
Many industries have adopted SD-WAN into their network infrastructure to maintain reliability and security. For example, a retail chain opening new locations across regions would want SD-WAN to centralize communications across networks and scale with ease. In these situations, built-in network redundancy and low latency are critical, and 5G and LTE connections provide the reliable and fast backup connections needed to accommodate those requirements.
Growth leads to an expanding network, meaning more security threats. Microsegmentation addresses security concerns by preventing third-party users and service providers from accessing data on the main network and giving employees access to applications or devices based on their unique role (i.e., a store manager requesting access to timecards).
Inventory is a particularly time-sensitive retail application that requires real-time sync between the inventory manager requesting data and the data coming from the warehouse. With SD-WAN, broadband and cellular links are more resilient, and application-based traffic steering improves QoS.
As more connected devices and applications integrate into retail environments and managing networks becomes more complicated, uptime is critical. Whether it’s POS terminals, video cameras, or digital signage, devices need reliable connections to prevent the potentially catastrophic business impact of network downtime.