Dell IT

Using SD-WAN to Tame the Wild West of Exploding Internet Traffic

Jason Chan By Jason Chan Senior Director, Global Network Services, Dell Digital April 8, 2019

Keeping ahead of today’s growing demands on the Wide Area Network (WAN) connecting your company is getting more complicated than ever. Not only is there more traditional traffic between data centers, main offices, branches and remote workers, but your company is probably using more Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications to increase efficiency as well as turning to Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) to manage workloads and gain flexibility. And then there’s the fact that in many work environments, employees regularly browse the Internet between tasks for everything from checking on the home front to streaming music and videos to catching up on the news.

SD-WAN Is Inevitable for Your Organization

If all that growing traffic is coming across your traditional Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)—the traditional premium price transport procured from major telecom carriers—you are facing escalating costs and strained capacity. You need to begin using a mix of network options, including more Internet-based transport.

But how do you do that efficiently and safely?

That’s where SD-WAN comes in. It applies software-defined technology to your network to create a virtual network fabric on top of your WAN to help you direct all that growing traffic in a way that makes sense.

Dell Technologies is in the process of rolling out SD-WAN across our company after two years of analyzing our network needs in the face of changing traffic demands. Here are some insights we’ve gained that may help you tame the Wild West of WAN demands for your organization.

Sizing Up Your Traffic

The first thing your organization should do when considering transitioning to SD-WAN is to look at your network traffic profile, architecture and the direction in which your Internet use is heading.

  • Are you moving workloads to the cloud?
  • Shifting to SaaS applications?
  • Seeing soaring Internet traffic?
  • What are the specific needs of your various locations?

At Dell, we determined some 70 percent of our network traffic is now destined for the Internet, yet our legacy WAN is designed for a time when a typical worker used the network predominantly for applications hosted in our data centers. Back then, if I was in a branch office, everything I needed, from email to financial apps to HR services, was hosted in the data center. I connected via MPLS, which was tried and true, proven and had very high SLAs. Connecting to the Internet was treated as untrusted traffic and was hosted outside our data center locations with security infrastructure around it.

The legacy WAN topography is no longer practical for Dell’s Internet-heavy traffic today, which spans 270 office locations, in 180 countries, 12 global data centers and 145,000 team members.

On the business applications front, we have adopted SaaS solutions like Workday for our HR platform, and have moved more of our sales CRM workload to Salesforce. And for collaboration and conferencing tools, we are looking at Microsoft Office 365 Suite.

We also maintain a generous policy regarding employee use of social media, in part as an employee retention strategy. While we choose not to block this personal activity on Facebook and elsewhere, it adds substantial traffic to our network.

Impact on Cost and Infrastructure

Not only is having such Internet traffic come into the data center via MPLS and then go to the Internet costly, it also requires our infrastructure to scale to keep pace, requiring considerable investment and months of upgrades.

SD-WAN, however, creates a control layer in the cloud, virtualizing and centralizing how the network is managed. By adopting SD-WAN, we can adapt our network to efficiently accommodate our new mix of traffic using Internet-based transport and MPLS depending on the needs of each location and demands. Our goal is to reduce our MPLS footprint, reserving this premium transport mode for applications that still reside in our data centers.

At the same time, we are working to establish direct Internet capabilities at every branch office location and offload Internet-based traffic at those site so we don’t have to bring it across our more costly MPLS circuits. To address security for Internet traffic, we are using a cloud proxy solution vendor though which we will define and enforce security roles for such traffic. So the security policy will be handled at the edge, i.e. at branch sites, and not in our data centers.

SD-WAN in the Family

You will need to choose an SD-WAN provider to orchestrate the optimum mix of transport resources for your WAN and you may consider deploying hardware purpose-built for SD-WAN as well.

We opted for VMware SD-WAN by VeloCloud—a Dell Technologies solution that provides a software overlay for WAN systems. We are also using Dell EMC Networking Virtual Edge Platform (VEP4600), a Dell EMC Universal customer premises equipment (uCPE) solution. Dell is replacing our traditional routers with the less costly VEP4600 physical hardware box to provide the foundation to virtualize our network functions.

Using this new SD-WAN backbone, our traffic goes through VeloCloud’s network, which finds the most efficient way of using our network resources for the type of traffic going through.

A key benefit of SD-WAN is that it provides single pane of glass to view and control automation and monitoring capabilities for your WAN, offering greater ease of management and faster provisioning.

Dell began transitioning to SD-WAN in September 2018, is currently piloting the new network approach in 30 branch sites. We plan to fully complete our roll out of SD-WAN by the first half of 2020.

We expect to gain some 30 percent cost savings with SD-WAN, as well as gaining speed and efficiency in accessing SaaS applications, particularly in regional offices outside the U.S. But perhaps the biggest argument for transitioning to SD-WAN is that we can be more flexible and agile and be ready for ongoing traffic growth.

In Conclusion

Ultimately, when it comes to SD-WAN, it isn’t a matter of if your company will move to this new network, but when and how.

To learn more about VMware’s SD-WAN by VeloCloud or Dell EMC’s Networking Virtual Edge Platform (VEP4600), contact your Dell EMC representative.

And, check out Jason’s interview with theCUBE during the recent VMworld conference in Las Vegas, Nevada!


Jason Chan

About Jason Chan

Senior Director, Global Network Services, Dell Digital

Jason has over 20 years of experience in the networking and telecommunications industry. He currently is Head of Global Network Services for Dell Digital leading the company’s own internal transformational initiatives from software-defined networking in the Datacenter with open networking and SDN, all the way to the Edge with SD-WAN.

Over Jason’s career, he has contributed to IEEE telecommunications standards related to broadband access technologies, to architecting both service provider and enterprise networking solutions.

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