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November 18, 2019
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Consider Satellite As Part of SD-WAN
Including satellite links in a SD-WAN solution can provide you high bandwidth at reasonable cost, especial in rural and remote areas.

By: John Shepler

Software Defined Networks (SDN) or Software Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) are being implemented more and more to provide high quality business bandwidth at lower costs. In some cases, SD-WAN is the only way to get decent bandwidth levels in rural and remote areas. You might think of these software defined networks as a potpourri of different connection technologies, but it’s more than that. it’s an intelligent approach to making the most of every connection available, including satellite. 

Consider satellite as part of your SD-WAN solutionWhy The Need For SD Networks
Say you want to connect to the Internet or to your cloud service provider. Traditionally, you’ve done that by ordering up a “last mile” connection from your business location to the Internet or a private point to point line between two locations, such as your office and your cloud provider. 

That’s great as long as there are providers who can give you all the bandwidth you need and at a price that won’t choke your business. The problem is that you often overpay for premium bandwidth that goes unused or settle for what the budget can handle and regret the performance limitations every day. 

In reality, different tasks have different connection requirements. Telephone lines for a call center or even ordinary office use don’t need tremendous amounts of bandwidth but are highly sensitive to latency, jitter and packet loss. Backing up files to a remote data center or storage in the cloud is fairly insensitive to the latency, jitter and packet loss characteristics but needs lots of bandwidth to get done in a reasonable time. 

This is where SDN / SD-WAN work their magic. An intelligent processor acts as a traffic manager for each and every packet entering the network. Those voice packets get routed to a dedicated high performance but limited bandwidth circuit like like a T1 or ISDN PRI. File backups can go via cable broadband or as lower priority on the T1 or fiber optic line. Business applications in the cloud need reliability and quick response. They’ll go over a high performance connection. 

How SD Networks Optimize Cost
The processing power within the SDN controller makes note of what each type of traffic needs. You’ve told it that. The processor is also constantly monitoring the status of each connection that you’ve provided it. It can truly be a potpourri of T1, DS3, cable broadband, 4G and 5G wireless, Point to Point Microwave, Ethernet over Copper, Ethernet over Fiber, SONET, MPLS networks, DSL, and two-way Satellite. 

What’s key is that the controller knows at each instant how each connection is performing. Low cost connections aren’t always low performing. That DSL or cable link might be zooming along right now. The low cost usually comes from these being shared rather than dedicated connections. Other users, not in your company, can be hogging bandwidth and creating congestion to slow you down. 

Satellite may well have excellent speed and low packet loss. The geosynchronous satellites now in service do have long latency times that can’t be avoided. That can be an issue with voice and video conversations, but makes little difference for file transfers or downloaded video. 

Wireless connections in general have usage limits simply because wireless bandwidth is a scarce resource. SDN needs to be mindful of that in assigning the connections to avoid bandwidth slowdowns or additional charges. 

The point is that you don’t need to buy the most expensive bandwidth solution in many cases. You won’t be able to load up that line 100% of the time with traffic that absolutely needs it. SDN / SD-WAN can ensure that your costly connections get used to the max but offload traffic that doesn’t need such high performance to a lower cost link. You also gain the advantage of automatic failover in case one of your links fails.

When Availability Is Most Important
There are many locations in rural America where you can stand outside and waive a fist full of money to buy connectivity and have no takers. This is where an SD network solution can really help. The newer high bandwidth satellites offer fast speeds and quality connections. You can include a dedicated SIP trunk based on a T1 line for your VoIP phone calls to get around the latency issue. it is likely that cellular broadband is also available in most areas. Combine these and you may well get all the bandwidth you need with the performance you also need without having to pay a fortune to bring in a fiber cable… if anyone will even do it. 

Are you frustrated with either the cost of connectivity or its availability? This would be a good time to look into SDN / SD-WAN solutions that can give you the performance you need at a cost you can afford.

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