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Mission-Critical Workloads, Dispersed Locations, Unpredictable Demands: When SD-WAN is the Ideal Solution

Greg Stemberger, Iron Bow Technologies

July 24, 2018  |  Networking  •  Software-defined Networking


While many look to Washington, D.C. as the hub of the federal government, the reality is that agencies have branches and staff throughout the country and around the world. Federal employees need a reliable network that spans disparate offices across the globe.

Think about the gravity of this scenario. An agency spends months preparing for a significant event, for example, wildfires on the west coast. During this time, they’re bouncing ideas back and forth from D.C. to California and potentially a variety of other locations.

As wildfire season nears and all hands are on deck, the agency needs to scale up and boost connectivity quickly so it can transfer large stores of data and analyze how the weather might react. When the first wildfire of the season breaks out unexpectedly, the amount of information the network needs to handle becomes overwhelming and complex, including video, social media content and even personally identifiable information that needs to be managed with a heightened level of security.

Wide area networks (WANs) play an essential role in connecting agency workers spread out across vast geographic regions. But in this case, a traditional WAN is insufficient. Complex data packages may lead to downtime, necessary security updates may be difficult to apply across the whole network and traffic can be as unpredictable as the blaze itself. In most business settings an unreliable WAN can result in loss of productivity, but in many situations our government faces, it could lead to loss of homes, property and even life.

Back in March, we discussed how software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) are the best resource for connecting the nearly 3 million civil servants employed by the United States government. Now we want to focus on a few key benefits of SD-WAN, including greater reliability, security and scalability, and how they apply within a federal agency.

With traditional WANs, the network is deployed through multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), which employs a multitude of switches and routers. Equipment is stacked at various branches of an agency. Not only is this costly, but it’s vastly less efficient than SD-WAN and, when manual changes are required, can be prone to error. SD-WAN offers a solution through automation.

One of the great challenges of any type of network today is unpredictability. In a mission-critical situation, even the slightest outage is unacceptable. Yet in 70% of application outages, the network is at fault. This is because workloads ebb and flow with little warning and in a traditional WAN environment, adjusting for this unpredictability is time consuming and difficult to enforce.

With SD-WAN, automated processes can reroute traffic to less burdened parts of the network, eliminating unexpected outages. The network can learn policies that guide certain types of traffic and intelligently act without human intervention.

SD-WAN enhances security as well, starting with encryption at all levels from the edge to the cloud. Greater visibility enabled by the software layer offers a significant benefit. Managers have a holistic network view and react fast, potentially even segmenting off a portion of the network should a breach occur. Instead of making updates manually at each location, SD-WAN allows IT staff to broadly apply security changes and updates. This creates a network that’s well suited for the personal and national security information government regularly handles.

Lastly, with SD-WAN scalability is simplified and updates are quick and seamless. If an agency is expanding or changing locations and needs capacity at a new branch, the same policies and rules already enforced throughout the network can be applied to the new location. Similarly, new services or policies can be applied to the entire network at once through the software layer. This both simplifies the job of the IT administrator and eliminates the potential of human error and inconsistencies.

While the benefits of SD-WAN are clear, transitioning to a new network environment can be daunting. At Iron Bow, we understand how the technology landscape is changing and how federal agencies can utilize new approaches to best address their mission needs. We partner with VMware and Cisco, two of the leading innovators in SD-WAN technology, to deliver the best available technology to your agency so you can focus on the work that matters, like seeing that multi-office, mission-critical project through to completion.

For more information on how to use SD-WAN to make your agency more efficient, check out the Iron Bow’s website.


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