Do you need two Internet connections to benefit from SD-WAN?
When installing VeloCloud’s Software-Defined Wider-Area Networking (SD-WAN), the standard practice is that there be at least two data connections at a customer site. The VeloCloud Edge appliance that VeloCloud that provide their subscription service actively monitors data links in real time, detects problems, and can apply self-healing algorithms to correct and mitigate latency, packet loss, and jitter. VeloCloud assures also us that the service works best when there is at least one alternate route to route data away from a corrupted link.So we always recommend two data connections to support a VeloCloud SD-WAN installation, but early we also wondered; could the service help a customer who had only one Internet connection? We got our chance to answer that question when one of our City Hosted customers (who is stuck in a neighborhood with only one ISP) began experiencing voice-quality problems.
Depending on cloud applications when internet access is limitedThe Scottsdale Airpark (a business park in Scotsdale, Arizona near the City offices) is a notoriously poor location when it comes to choice of Internet providers. Your choices are Cox, Cox, and Cox (unless you want to go back to dial-up or bring in some low bit-rate 4G hotspot or satellite rig). Don’t misunderstand me, Cox is a perfectly fine ISP (please don’t cut my house off from high-speed Internet, I am still not finished with Project Runway, season ten), but their network model is built on shared service loops. Meaning that when you connect to Cox’s data network, you are running across a neighborhood wiring loop that you share with everyone else in the neighborhood.
In Scottsdale Airpark in particular (which is extremely dense with businesses), the demand for high-speed Internet has outpaced Cox’s plans for expansion. It is common for customers to experience congestion and degradation during peak usage times.
Our City Hosted phone system depends on stable Internet connectivity to run. When there is latency, jitter, or packet loss on the Internet connection, the phone service can experience delays, one-way audio, or dropped calls. We’re a phone-service provider for goodness sakes. The oversubscription of Internet access in the Airpark was creating this problem for our customer. Adding a second Internet connection was not an option. So we tried SD-WAN on a single link to see if it could help with the problem.
Bringing SD-WAN into the City product portfolioIn case you need a primer, we started offering Velocloud SD-WAN two years ago. Velocloud is the world’s leading SD-WAN provider. Their SD-WAN is a service that, when deployed at the edges of a customer’s Wide-Area Network (WAN), provides management of Wide-Area Network traffic. It does this by monitoring all data connections on the WAN, remediating (correcting) problems (like jitter, delay and packet loss), and optimizing traffic based on business policies determined by the customer.
The service is designed to work using two or more Internet (or private data) links connected to each branch. Having an alternate path to route traffic when one link is experiencing degradation is a cornerstone of the technology. The promise of the service is that for customers who buy into business-critical cloud-delivered services (hosted phone systems, CRM, Point of Sale systems), SD-WAN allows them to use inexpensive and quick-to-source broadband Internet instead of private networks or carrier-proprietary MPLS service.
We tested VeloCloud first on ourselves. We use our own City Hosted phone system. 18-months ago, we would experience the kind of intermittent voice and service quality issues that at the least embarrassed us, at the worst cost us time and money and lost opportunity. At the time, we ran the business on a Century Link DSL (100Mb up and 20 Mb down). We were using a SimpleWAN appliance to optimize our data traffic as best we could, but still had problems. We installed a second Internet connection (a 5mb up and 800k down Cox cable link) and installed the SD-WAN. It went in with their default data optimization profile and the results still amaze me to this day.
In 18-months, we have not had a single complaint about voice quality from either an employee or someone calling into our office. With an active call running across the DSL, we were able to physically unplug the Century Link service and the SD-WAN appliance moved the call to the other link (the call does not drop). And not only does it not drop, it is barely interrupted when the handoff takes place. The VeloCloud Edge device gives us rich reporting and monitoring data about the status of our Internet connections. The reporting proved to us that each link experiences multiple minor failures (packet, jitter, latency, even going completely out of service) weekly. But the SD-WAN is able to deliver 100% up-time and clean connectivity with no disruption. Like I said, amazing.
Throwing VeloCloud at the Scottsdale Airpark problemOur Airpark customer with City Hosted phone issues and only one Internet connection really put the VeloCloud SD-WAN to the test. We had a single, buggy link that was absolutely messing up our beautiful phone service and pissing off our customer. So we installed the SD-WAN appliance and again, we accepted the box’s default parameters (which are optimized for voice). Then we waited.
Oh, it worked (in case there was any suspense in what the punchline of this story would be). Call quality issues dropped to negligible. We were able to see in the Velocloud’s reporting exactly when the Cox link degraded to sub-optimal performance and exactly what the box did to correct for it. And we could see that it raised the Internet connections MOS score by about 20% (enough to stave off the nastiest call-dropping errors). In all, we saved a customer and protected them from whatever consequences there would be to their business by having crappy phone calls.
If you want to learn more about this experience, or about SD-WAN in general, we feel like we have a real-world handle on the technology. If you’re a dealer or an agent for City, contact your Channel Manager. If you’re customer or someone experience this problem who just wants to learn more about SD-WAN, call our sales line or email me directly and I’ll connect you with someone who can help.
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