Software-Defined Wide-Area Networking (SD-WAN) has become a viable cost-effective solution for enterprises that need to connect multiple sites, such as branch offices, in a virtual private network (VPN). Compared with traditional MPLS networks, an SD-WAN solution can optimize performance and potentially save about a third of the cost of connecting branches and data centers.
In response to the growth in demand for SD-WAN deployments, there are now more than twenty SD-WAN vendors offering solutions with varying levels of features and sophistication. While this level of choice is to be welcomed, sometimes it can feel like you’re drowning in information when researching appropriate solutions. You need to be confident that the solution is going to be the right choice for your enterprise, not only for today, but for the future as well.
Proof-of-Concept Testing SD-WAN Solutions
You may decide on a shortlist of two to three vendors who you believe can meet your operational requirements and then choose to proceed with a formal product evaluation. Each product will need to be tested with varying latency (network delay), packet loss, and packet delay variation (jitter) to verify that it is able to detect and recover from network quality issues. Other real-world network conditions including network congestion, packet duplication and packet reordering should also be used to verify how the SD-WAN solution handles them.
You could conduct such testing in the production network, assuming you’re allowed. However, the production network is not controllable so it would be virtually impossible to compare the different SD-WAN solutions in the identical conditions. This means it is going to be very difficult to make objective, evidence-based assessments of the different offerings under consideration.
So, you need a method to validate SD-WAN in a consistent and controllable environment that mimics the real networks, where tests can be performed and repeated under both normal and extreme network conditions. Numerous “What-if” scenarios should be played out to determine the effect that different network conditions have on the SD-WAN product and how it handles them.
Consistent and Repeatable Test Conditions
iTrinegy Network Emulators, either Virtual or Hardware Appliance, enable the creation of a Virtual Test Network that mimics the production set-up so that you can test the effects of changes in the network conditions on the SD-WAN solution in a controlled and repeatable environment. There is no need to include routers or modems in the configuration. Instead, a Network Emulator presents standard Ethernet ports which allows you to easily connect your equipment. When network packets pass through the emulation ports they are impaired to mimic the real-world network.
The INE Network Emulator range (available both as hardware and virtual appliances) can be used to recreate the proposed SD-WAN environment in order to carry out realistic proof-of-concept testing
Multiple links (network experiences) can be defined to mimic multiple routes across the network. For example in a basic test DSL and Mobile 4G point-to-point links could be defined. Latency can then be steadily increased on the DSL circuit to ensure that the SD-WAN solution detects it and uses the 4G link instead.
More sophisticated testing could include a fully meshed Virtual Test Network with multiple routes and a range of real-world network impairments.
Scenarios can also be easily designed to automatically change conditions in the Virtual Test Network. For example, the scenario could start as a perfect network for two minutes, before introducing a burst of congestion and high latency for the next three minutes before returning to being a perfect network.
Ensuring you are making the right choice
Choosing an SD-WAN solution for your enterprise is not easy but the evaluation process can be shortened and confidence that you are making the right choice can be increased by using an iTrinegy Network Emulator. Using a Network Emulator will enable you to fully appreciate the impact the changes you are planning to make will have on the performance of your applications and the end-user experience prior to roll out. In short, adopting this approach will help you to determine whether the new SD-WAN deployment will deliver the anticipated benefits and ROI before you put your budget, resources and reputation on the line.