Improving Cloud App Performance with SD-WAN

12 Jul 2019

Your outside sales team is hosting an important video conference. At the same time, your customers are on the phone with your support team troubleshooting problems via remote desktop.

Suddenly your sales team video starts to experience latency and the call is eventually abandoned; your support team experiences “brown out” and loses visual of the customer desktop.

Yikes! What just happened? Each of these activities requires a stable, high-bandwidth connection to the cloud. More importantly…

  • Your sales agents might never get that prospect on the line again
  • Your support team will fail to resolve your customer’s issue
  • Your customer might decide that they’re going to take their business elsewhere.

What’s more, each of the conversations above is now subject to a single point of failure – your cloud connection. When your connection to the cloud fails – and it will – all of your calls and video fail. Employees will be unable to access their productivity apps, customers will be unable to make purchases or use your product, and you will end up losing an astonishing amount of money (more on this later).

It is important for both small and large businesses to invest in technologies that can connect their perimeter to the cloud in ways that are fast, reliable, and low-latency. Pre-existing technologies such as VPN can’t do this. MPLS can be out of reach for many organizations both due to its expense and the difficulty of configuration. If you want to guarantee high-quality connections for your mission-critical voice and network applications, SD-WAN might be the answer.

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN is a routing technology designed to take several different kinds of network connections and turn them into a single functional network. Typically, it’s used either for multi-site networks or to optimize connections to the cloud. It represents an advance over both VPN and MPLS technologies because it allows users to:

  • Prioritize their most important network traffic over the highest-quality connection available
  • Monitor high-priority traffic for quality of service (QOS)
  • Switch high-priority traffic over to better connections if their primary connections fail
  • Bundle several different kinds of connections – such as broadband, DSL, 4G LTE, etc. – into a single network.

Considered “nice-to-haves” just a few years ago, these tools have become indispensable in an era where 89% of businesses are absolutely dependent upon a public cloud (and 81% have implemented multiple clouds) to keep critical business applications running. No previous routing technology has been able to match the power and flexibility of SD-WAN at an equivalent cost. SD-WAN is inevitable – 75% of companies are currently exploring SD-WAN. Are you?

Here’s what makes it so important.

Out With the Old, In With the New

Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, the internet only provided two things, as far as businesses were concerned– email and websites. No social media as we know it today, and no smartphones. Your business phone system was on a completely different circuit, and video conferencing was still a science-fiction technology. It made sense to give every internet-enabled application an equal share of bandwidth.

As of 2018, bandwidth prioritization is absolutely vital. Without it, an employee using a smartphone to watch a video on their lunch break gets to use the same network connection and an equal share of bandwidth as a CEO making a presentation via conference call. In order to make sure that your CEO’s conference call doesn’t get dropped, you need to ensure that it gets a high-priority network connection. Currently, only SD-WAN can provide that kind of assurance.


So what about MPLS? MPLS (Multi-protocol label switching) is a last-generation technology that acts in certain respects like SD-WAN. Instead of using bandwidth prioritization, MPLS uses custom packet headers to route information across the Internet along pre-determined paths. MPLS is focused on prioritizing site-to-site communications – creating an intranet between branch offices. But MPLS wasn’t designed with the cloud in mind.


The real question is not “Should I replace my MPLS with SD-WAN” but “How can SD-WAN complement my MPLS implementation?”

Many companies who have adopted SD-WAN on top of a pre-existing MPLS implementation tend to use the technologies in concert. By adopting SD-WAN, companies that already use MPLS can reduce traffic load on their MPLS by moving things like cloud app traffic (Office 365, Salesforce, WebEx, etc.) onto a less-expensive and less latency-prone SD-WAN solution.

And, if you don’t currently have a WAN solution, SD-WAN can provide better connections to the cloud at literally half the cost. Where MPLS forces administrators to manage both an intranet and a public-facing internet that connects to the cloud, SD-WAN incorporates your cloud connections as a holistic part of your network.
Because of this, SD-WAN provides:

  • End-to-end security, even where it runs through the cloud. Companies using SD-WAN are natively GDPR-compliant.
  • Speed and reliability
  • Intelligence, via the capacity to prioritize mission-critical traffic
  • The ability to support both cloud and on-premise connections as part of a single network.

Technology With Benefits

It’s often the case that cloud performance takes a back seat to the technology until you need it. IT directors and business owners need to really understand the benefits of SD-WAN as a key component of your cloud strategy to ensure productive employees and business phone connectivity when public internet fails to deliver.

Here are some of the major benefits of SD-WAN to consider.

Multiple Circuits to Speed Cloud Performance

SD-WAN interacts with both your intranet and your WAN to create a single network, linking your office to the cloud. This hybrid configuration lets administrators set granular policies as to the kind of traffic that gets priority in both environments.

The Cloud Becomes Dependable

Using SD-WAN in conjunction with the cloud means that the cloud gets that much faster. Cloud applications already have built-in disaster recovery and failover because they’re hosted in multiple data centers. If one cloud fails, the workload switches to another geographical location. SD-WAN helps to access the workload quickly and reliably no matter where in the world it is (literally), further increasing the reliability of cloud applications.

Reduced Cost

SD-WAN is up to 50% less expensive than MPLS. Let’s break that down a little more… Ordinary internet circuits cost only about 33% as much as MPLS links while providing higher speeds. SD-WAN takes the advantages of the internet and cancels out the negatives of poor security and unpredictable reliability. Therefore, not only do you spend less on the internet, you don’t have to worry about economic losses.

IP Failover

Unplanned downtime can cost on the order of $5,600 per minute. Your employees can’t work, your customers can’t access support, and you lose money for every second. IP failover takes this problem away. When one ISP goes down, your SD-WAN solution can fail over to a new connection in seconds, which preserves TCP connections. In other words, your customers and employees won’t notice a difference.

QoX On Public Internet

Traffic such as VoIP or video automatically requires bandwidth prioritization – and SD-WAN recognizes this as such. SD-WAN solutions generate custom packet headers for this kind of traffic, which gives it priority in the queue. If lost packets are an issue, the system will add parity packets into the flow, ensuring that no data is lost in transmission.

Business Voice Communication in the Cloud + SD-WAN: The Best of Both Worlds?

Cloud communication is “next-generation”, and it’s changed the way businesses communicate. Advantages include:

  • Softphone and mobile access to your business phone system
  • Next-gen applications that allow your team to customize communication from a system app giving you rich analytics and features you could never experience without the cloud
  • Consolidated pricing to mix and match features and options so that you spend your money on the what you use, not on one-time purchases.

The cloud increases what your technology can accomplish without requiring further resources from your IT department. When you transfer the responsibility of maintaining up-to-date and secure technology, you’ll also gain a flexible, mobile, and uniform telecommunications system. Practically speaking, this means your IT department can stop focusing on software upgrades and start helping your company strategically leverage the versatile features of your hosted applications.

However, moving your telephony to the cloud isn’t a goal in and of itself. Your company benefits most when it needs to align with what cloud communication has to offer. Packet Fusion’s core competency is our ability to analyze your business objectives and determine how you can best leverage the cloud.


By Matt Pingatore, CEO of Packet Fusion


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