Users tell what you need to know about SD-WAN

Harrison Lewis wasn’t looking for SD-WAN, but he’s glad he found it.

Northgate Gonzalez, which operates 40 specialty grocery stores throughout Southern California, had distributed its compute power for years. Each store individually supported applications with servers and other key infrastructure and relied on batch processing to deal with nightly backups and storage, according to Lewis, the privately held company’s CIO.

Over time, the company’s needs changed, and it began centralizing more services, including HR and buying systems, as well as Microsoft Office, in the cloud or at the company’s two data centers. With this shift came a heavier burden on the single T-1 lines running MPLS into each store and the 3G wireless backup. Complicating matters, Lewis says, rainy weather in the region would flood the wiring, taking down terrestrial-network connectivity.

“It was problematic. We even doubled up on T-1 lines to each location, but it still wasn’t enough. The network had to be a lot more reliable,” Lewis says.

Lewis searched for a suitable – and cost-effective – alternative, researching incremental options that could have increased bandwidth and addressed the company’s security needs. “They all came with a significant price tag,” he says.

In July 2016, Lewis and his team came upon software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN), technology that decouples the control plane from the data plane and enables networking groups to control the entire WAN in a centralized manner. Uniquely, SD-WAN supports the use of multiple types of connectivity (such as MPLS, broadband, broadband wireless), offering flexibility and ease of use for organizations with multiple locations.

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