SD-WAN routers provide application QoE, network visibility, and secure access points in a 5G environment
More than 10 years have passed since the inception of SD-WAN, and the once cutting-edge system of overlays and tunnels is starting to show its age. In its heyday, key SD-WAN features including WAN optimization, incorporation of broadband and other best-effort WAN links, and fast application failover revolutionized business networks, but as networking begins to adapt to a 5G world, many hallmarks of SD-WAN architecture are becoming irrelevant.
Does this mean that SD-WAN and 5G can’t coexist? Absolutely not. Even though some of its original claims to fame are fading, SD-WAN enterprise solutions still provide immense value to businesses across the globe even as those businesses shift increasingly to LTE or 5G Wireless WAN (WWAN).
The SD-WAN shift to security
When we look closely at how networking is evolving, it’s obvious that security and network connectivity are becoming highly integrated and being pushed closer and closer to the network edge and into the cloud. At the same time, 5G network security is changing expectations for security across the WAN. In tandem with these evolutions, the intelligent processing features of an SD-WAN router which once focused strictly on data manipulation are now being enhanced with an emphasis on security, effectively turning the SD-WAN router into a security service edge (SSE) solution.
SSE solutions enable organizations to gain secure access to cloud-based applications and services using an edge appliance like a 5G router as the access point. With an SD-WAN router at the edge, enhanced network security features like zero trust network access (ZTNA) and secure access service edge (SASE) solutions can vet users, prevent security breaches, segment traffic, and further protect the network from malicious actors.
SD-WAN routers continue to improve quality of experience
Security is a top priority for enterprise businesses in a 5G environment, but quality of experience (QoE) also remains a focal point, making intelligent path selection an SD-WAN router feature that continues to remain relevant today.
To ensure users on any given network achieve optimal QoE for their critical applications, SD-WAN routers first must understand the applications that are being used on the network and what the needs and characteristics of each of those applications are. For example, voice traffic needs low loss and low latency and may be a top priority in a call center, while the characteristics needed for video traffic are quite different and may be prioritized over voice in a surveillance environment. Policies, built in a central location and distributed across the network tell the SD-WAN router what the business’ priorities are, and the router is then responsible for ensuring those policies are met across the WAN.
Although an SD-WAN router can function with a single available link — including a wireless link using dual connectivity or network slices on a standalone 5G core — QoE continues to improve when the SD-WAN solution includes a hybrid WAN made up of at least two links that are typically a mix of wired and wireless. These links function like traffic routes in a city: the more routes available (i.e., a lane for cyclists, a freeway for cars, and a service road for trucks), the better the experience for each type of driver. An SD-WAN appliance manages traffic the same way street signs determine who is permitted to use which route at any given time.
While using a 5G network will improve performance overall — especially in mid- and high-band coverage areas — SD-WAN capabilities will determine the throughput, quality, and capacity of each available link, ultimately enabling the highest QoE for each application by taking maximum advantage of available network resources while implementing the policies that meet the business’ needs when resources are restricted.
Consolidation is key to network management
SD-WAN solutions are famous for simplifying processes that once were cumbersome, and that hasn’t changed, even in a 5G environment. By providing a consolidated view of applications, networks, and interfaces, SD-WAN solutions enable enterprise IT managers to ditch multiple management platforms in favor of a single, ideally cloud-based, management portal. As security and networking increasingly merge, the management interface can be simplified even further by creating a single representation of entities like users, applications, sites, and policies, which can then be shared across the network, across all services, and across all types of locations.
SD-WAN Wireless WAN solutions like Cradlepoint NetCloud Manager take consolidated management a step further by incorporating management of the 5G network as well. From SIM management services to visualizing coverage areas to optimizing data plans to determining the ROI of 5G to selecting the best carrier at each location, NetCloud Manager with Cellular Intelligence provides visibility into the 5G network. This leads to improved network efficiencies while reducing phone calls to the carrier and the number of management tools the IT staff needs to use.
SD-WAN routers and 5G are a great match
As businesses rely more and more on 5G solutions for fixed, mobile, and remote sites, full wireless edge coverage, robust edge security, and management from a single platform becomes more important. The technology within an SD-WAN router makes it possible to achieve that goal while serving as a conduit for enhanced security and hybrid connectivity. This successful, secure orchestration of traffic across a Wireless WAN is key to achieving business results in an agile environment.