• Corporate
Published on 4 April 2021

SD-WAN revolutionizes the standard network

SD-WAN revolutionizes the standard network

More than just a buzzword, SD-WAN is a technology that brings many benefits to companies looking to modernize their network and reduce their connectivity costs.

1. Background

Technological evolution and cost control are very important factors in the management of a company's information systems, whether it operates in the industrial, banking or luxury goods sectors.

EVA Group's network and security experts provide support in decision making or in the deployment of solutions already chosen by its customers.

The added value of EVA Group around network issues is centered on :

  • Flexibility: providing flexible solutions on technical and operational aspects through automation and adapted processes (ITIL, AGILE).
  • Security: evaluate beforehand the security integrated in the solution and its integration into the network of a given company, as well as the balance between a good level of security and a good level of network performance.
  • Cost optimization: choosing solutions with our customers based on an optimized CAPEX and OPEX cost model.

My mission as Project Manager concerns the deployment of a Cisco SD-WAN solution on the main datacenters of my customer, worldwide.

The SD-WAN is a lever for managing a company's IT network, being a solution that is easy to deploy but also easy to operate compared to the traditional network model. It also enables better cost management by facilitating and securing network management through traffic optimization.

The SD-WAN allows you to free yourself:

  • Very expensive connectivity by replacing traditional solutions such as MPLS, which used to guarantee the availability and security of the network, with Internet links,
  • Non-urbanized network architectures through included features such as firewall and QOS.

The advantages of SD-WAN are as follows:

  • Client-centric but also performance-oriented network: since the network is a service to customers, SD-WAN facilitates deployment with minimal impact and service interruption and provides a robust network that allows business teams and end customers to use their applications with peace of mind.
  • Routing Management: Standardization of hubs and centralized routing at the level of a particular region facilitates the operational management of changes as well as Business As Usual (BAU).
  • Cloud-ready: SD-WAN provides a native VPN connection suitable for AWS cloud with a centralized controller hosted in the cloud and accessible via a secure URL.
  • Flexibility: the SD-WAN allows to set up a network that can be modified according to the needs, thanks to its application management functionalities allowing to create application classes that will be prioritized in case of traffic congestion, in order to overcome the instability of VS internet links VS MPLS links by taking into account the routing to the most stable link.
  • Network performance: use of the entire bandwidth in active-active mode.
  • Cost reduction: if the company's strategy is to replace MPLS links with internet links using SD-WAN boxes, the annual costs of connectivity may decrease. On the other hand, the costs of SD-WAN management service are more expensive than the costs of traditional routers.

2. Challenge

The project consists of changing MPLS links to internet links and the implementation of SD-WAN boxes on different Datacenters across Europe, APAC, NAM and LATAM.

Since the datacenters are the heart of the network, the resources they host must remain available in all circumstances. Deployments must therefore take this factor into account, migrations require the work of several teams beforehand, preparation of migration schemas and files, coordination with local teams and agreement from business teams for a shutdown that generally lasts one hour for a 6-hour migration.

A migration is composed of the following steps:

  • Study of the existing architecture and integration of the target solution into the customer architecture:
  • Validation of the schemas and preparation of the configuration files;
  • Negotiation of an estimated migration date, usually on weekends;
  • Communication and presentation to the Change Validation Board (CAB) for validation by all stakeholders;
  • Preparation of the migration plan and tests;
  • Migrating and running the test book;
  • Decommissioning of old links.

Each of these steps is filled with challenges. As a Project Manager in a technical team, I was lucky to bring my functional skills to the project, and to work with very different profiles.

Project management is based on four major pillars, where I encountered the following constraints:

  • The costs: beyond the network performance issues, the major stake of my client is the cost of the MPLS links. Migrations concern the routing of traffic from MPLS links to Internet links with an SD-WAN "overlay" for security and optimization of network traffic, and immediately after the decommissioning of MPLS links. Migrations are urgent in order to respect the initial business case. The reality being often different from the business cases, the web links were delivered months before the migrations which caused a "double run" period.
  • Time: as the scope of the project was 8 large sites, the deployments lasted one year for various constraints: impossibility of travel related to Covid, late delivery of equipment by suppliers, cabling problem between the ISP supplier of the internet links and the racks of my customer, lack of availability of resources, rigidity of the ISP supplier of the internet links in the face of our constraints, deprivation of the project for other urgent subjects by the local teams ... These factors are common between projects, and made ours last longer than expected.
  • Resources: the Paris project team being dedicated to this project, the constraint was on the level of local resources in APAC, LATAM and NAM. Pushing the local network teams to focus on the subject required a lot of negotiation and perseverance: it was a great success in the end.
  • The quality: the team being composed of experts, the preparation was done carefully in detail, and the entire migration caused no incidents. It was very good teamwork!

3. EVA Group's mission

We were two EVA Group Consultants on the project: the Network Architect and myself as Project Manager. Together we were flexible and perseverant in the face of the various constraints. We also explored different related topics:

  • Collecting logs, alerts and events through the APIs offered by the Cisco solution;
  • Discovery of the different reporting offered by the Cisco V-analytics solution on network performance and consumption per application;
  • Securing access to the V-management platform through password management with a safe solution.

4. Results

Thanks to the different migrations, we were able to improve different network KPIs:

  • Latency has been improved across all regions, as we have reduced the number of jumps from one destination to another.
  • Redundancy and resilience: Each site has two SD-WAN appliances running at the same time to ensure better network availability.
  • The use of all the bandwidth capacity: the SD-WAN solution is an active/active solution, all the links available on a site are taken into account (load sharing and dynamic routing of traffic on the best links).
  • Centralization of the network: equipment and network management is done through a centralized and easy to use platform. Currently all the datacenters are part of the same network environment called SD-WAN factory. This factory gathers all the datacenters allowing a direct inter-regional communication, without dependence between the datacenters. For example, communication between Asia and America is possible without being routed through Europe.

The SD-WAN revolutionizes the standard network, it brings flexibility, agility and operational ease, it has become a necessity for any company wishing to offer a stable, scalable and easy to operate network for its customers. What if we combined SD-WAN, security and the cloud, towards a SASE model that adapts to the new constraints of enterprises: mobility, security and flexibility?

To find out more, read our article on SASE :

"SASE: The new buzzword in enterprise transformation". 

Consultante Confirmée EVA Group

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