Understanding WAN and SD-WAN

A Wide Area Network (WAN) is a telecommunications network that extends over a large geographic area for the primary purpose of computer networking. WANs are not necessarily the Internet, although the two terms are often used interchangeably. WANs can include connections to other networks, such as local area networks (LANs) or metropolitan area networks (MANs), providing the necessary infrastructure for long-distance communication and data transfer.

The primary role of a WAN is to connect smaller networks, such as LANs, into a cohesive system that allows for communication and data exchange over significant distances. This capability is crucial for businesses and organisations that operate in multiple locations, facilitating efficient and seamless interaction between different sites.

Traditional WAN Challenges

Traditional WANs rely heavily on Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) circuits, which provide reliable and predictable performance. However, MPLS circuits are often rigid and expensive, making them less suitable for modern, dynamic business environments that require flexibility and cost efficiency. Additionally, traditional WANs can struggle with issues such as latency, packet loss, and limited bandwidth, particularly when dealing with cloud applications and services.

What is SD-WAN?

Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN) represents an evolution of the traditional WAN, incorporating software-based technologies to enhance network performance and flexibility. SD-WAN allows for the dynamic management of network resources, enabling more efficient use of bandwidth and improved reliability through features such as path selection and traffic prioritisation.

SD-WAN decouples the network control functions from the underlying hardware, enabling more intelligent and flexible network management. This approach allows organisations to utilise a mix of connection types, including broadband, LTE, and MPLS, to create a more resilient and cost-effective network.

Key Features of SD-WAN

1. VPN Support: SD-WAN needs to support Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for secure encryption over the internet. VPNs ensure that data transmitted across the network remains confidential and protected from unauthorised access.

2. Dynamic Path Selection: Typically involves application awareness, allowing the network to choose the best path for data based on current conditions. This capability ensures that critical applications receive the necessary bandwidth and minimal latency, enhancing overall performance.

3. Simple Orchestration: (also know as application or service orchestration) Facilitates the management of VPN and path selection criteria, making it easier for network administrators to configure and manage the network. An intuitive interface simplifies complex networking tasks, reducing the potential for errors and improving operational efficiency.

Benefits of SD-WAN

Cost Savings: By leveraging less expensive broadband connections alongside traditional MPLS, organisations can significantly reduce their networking costs.

Enhanced Performance: SD-WAN optimises the use of available bandwidth, ensuring that high-priority applications receive the necessary resources for optimal performance.

Increased Agility: The ability to quickly adapt to changing network conditions and requirements allows businesses to respond more effectively to market demands.

Improved Security: With integrated VPN support and other security features, SD-WAN provides a robust defence against cyber threats.

The Importance of WAN Bonding

WAN bonding refers to the aggregation of different bandwidths of WAN media into a single, unified connection. This process allows multiple broadband connections to be combined, creating a single joint line that maximises available bandwidth and improves overall network performance. WAN bonding differs from load balancing, which merely distributes traffic across multiple WAN links without combining them into a single data stream.

How WAN Bonding Works

WAN bonding combines multiple internet connections from different sources, such as DSL, fibre, cellular, and satellite, into a single virtual connection. This aggregated connection provides higher bandwidth and improved reliability compared to any single connection. WAN bonding uses advanced algorithms to manage the flow of data across the combined connections, ensuring optimal performance and seamless operation.

Benefits of WAN Bonding

Improved Redundancy and Reliability: By leveraging multiple ISPs or connection types, WAN bonding provides fallback options, ensuring continuous uptime even if one connection fails. This redundancy is critical for businesses that rely on uninterrupted internet access for their operations.

Optimised Real-time Traffic: Dynamic path selection allows critical traffic, such as VoIP, to be prioritised, ensuring seamless communication without lags or drops. This feature is particularly important for real-time applications that require consistent and low-latency connectivity.

Enhanced Bandwidth Capacity: Bonding pools multiple connections, delivering a combined higher bandwidth for data-intensive tasks. This increased capacity allows businesses to handle larger volumes of data and support more users and applications.

Key Concepts in WAN Bonding

Carrier Aggregation: A cellular technology available with LTEA modems and towers, combining multiple frequencies for higher throughput. Carrier aggregation enhances the performance of mobile networks by utilising multiple frequency bands simultaneously.

Failover: Automatically switches the WAN connection from one to another if the primary WAN fails. Failover mechanisms ensure that network connectivity is maintained even in the event of a connection failure.

Hot Failover: Instantly switches the WAN connection from one to another, maintaining session persistence if the primary WAN fails. Hot failover provides a seamless transition between connections, ensuring that active sessions are not disrupted.

Load Balancing: Uses two or more WAN connections simultaneously, intelligently routing traffic among the available channels. Load balancing optimises the distribution of network traffic, preventing congestion and improving performance.

Bonding: Creates a more secure, wider single path from two or more WAN connections. Bonding enhances network resilience and bandwidth by combining multiple connections into a single, robust data stream.

Introducing RazorLink SD-WAN

Livewire Digital has developed a cutting-edge SD-WAN solution known as RazorLink, designed to address hybrid networking over challenging networks. With a heritage in providing hybrid satellite and cellular SD-WAN networking within demanding maritime and vehicular environments, RazorLink offers robust performance across diverse global architectures.

RazorLink SD-WAN Features

1. Hybrid WAN & WAN Optimisation: RazorLink can bond 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, DSL, and satellite connections to increase available bandwidth and offer a backup network for critical applications. This hybrid approach ensures that organisations can utilise the best available connections to maintain optimal performance.

2. Network Resilience: RazorLink protocols overcome the limitations of using UDP across WANs, resulting in more efficient use of network capacity and lower latency. This resilience is crucial for maintaining reliable connectivity in challenging environments.

3. Network Acceleration: RazorLink helps overcome delay and packet loss, radically improving the performance of applications over WAN. Network acceleration techniques optimise the transmission of data, reducing latency and enhancing user experience.

4. Network Prioritisation: Prioritise traffic so that the most important data is delivered first, such as giving audio higher priority than video. Network prioritisation ensures that critical applications receive the necessary bandwidth and resources.

5. Network Security: RazorLink technology can encrypt application data using AES while maintaining maximum performance. This encryption provides robust security without compromising on speed or efficiency.

6. Network Statistics & Accounting: Provides real-time bandwidth statistics and accounting information without the need for custom libraries or complicated APIs. Network statistics help administrators monitor performance and make informed decisions.

RazorLink’s Advanced Capabilities

Highly Resilient SD-WAN Fabric: Maintains single TCP connections regardless of underlay availability and performance, ensuring continuous connectivity. This resilience is essential for businesses that require reliable and uninterrupted internet access.

Smart Networking Protocol (SNP): A proprietary transmission protocol facilitating packet-by-packet intelligence and control. SNP optimises the transmission of data, ensuring efficient and reliable communication.

Advanced Traffic Classification: Allocates applications to specific combinations of bonded underlay networks seamlessly. This classification ensures that critical applications receive the necessary resources for optimal performance.

Real-time Data: Provides a rich and expansive data set for advanced control over QoS and traffic-steering policy. Real-time data enables administrators to monitor network performance and make adjustments as needed.

Flexible Deployment: Available across platforms, from micro ARM-based systems to data centre server farms. RazorLink’s flexible deployment options ensure that it can be integrated into a wide range of network environments.

Advantages of RazorLink SD-WAN

Designed for Highly Mobile Platforms: Ideal for maritime, vehicular, and other mobile applications. RazorLink’s robust design ensures reliable connectivity in challenging environments.

Horizontal and Vertical Scaling: Supports extensive scalability with minimal overheads. This scalability allows businesses to grow their network infrastructure as needed.

Future-proof Architecture: Compatible with 5G, 6G, LEO, and beyond. RazorLink’s future-proof design ensures that it can accommodate new technologies and standards as they emerge.

True Aggregation: Provides sum-of-all-parts bonding, even with diverse link combinations. True aggregation enhances network performance by combining multiple connections into a single, robust data stream.

Near-zero Configuration: Supports new underlays with minimal setup. This ease of configuration simplifies the deployment and management of the network.

Granular Control: Offers detailed control over QoS, traffic-steering, and service allocation. Granular control ensures that administrators can optimise network performance for specific applications and requirements.

Real-world Applications of RazorLink SD-WAN

RazorLink SD-WAN is designed to meet the demands of modern businesses and organisations that require reliable and high-performance connectivity. Its advanced features and capabilities make it an ideal solution for a wide range of applications:

Maritime and Vehicular Environments: RazorLink’s robust design and advanced networking protocols ensure reliable connectivity in challenging environments, such as ships and vehicles. This capability is essential for industries such as shipping, logistics, and transportation.

Remote Offices and Branch Locations: RazorLink provides reliable and high-performance connectivity for remote offices and branch locations, enabling seamless communication and data exchange between sites.