October 1, 2015

How does WAN design need to change?

This is a continuation of our first and second discussions of WAN solutions.

As new technologies and architectures make their way into the marketplace, how should network organizations re-think how they design their WAN? Please be as specific as possible.

Readers are encouraged to join the discussion below by clicking on the "Reply" link at the end of any comment.  For background, please see The 2015 Guide to WAN Architecture and Design.


Traditional WANs have been built for static applications and are managed using multiple management tools that make it difficult for IT teams to reconfigure and troubleshoot the network when responding to business needs. Hybrid WAN solutions are a good short-term solution for reducing WAN costs and augmenting the network, but still tend to be a static solution. With ongoing digital transformation and trends like Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data, leading businesses are constantly needing to reinvent themselves to be able to disrupt the market or simply stay ahead of the competition.

To do so, they need a dynamic network that enables constant reinvention on demand and fast IT capabilities that accelerate business innovation through IT simplicity and insights. They also need to have an application-ready network and ensure that they have the visibility into the data traversing their network without impacting application performance as security is pushed to the edge of the network. Overall, network organizations need to strive for simplicity through centralized management in the branch while adapting a long-term view in designing their WAN. By investing in a robust, secure, and intelligent branch solution today, organizations will be able to satisfy their needs many years down the road.

For more information on Cisco’s guide on how to evaluate your overall WAN strategy and to decide which SD-WAN solution will improve your digital business transformation and help you win against the competition, check out Cisco’s SD-WAN Bill of Rights .

WAN designs can now be simplified considerably, and the result is a more flexible, better controlled, higher performing WAN that provides much better visibility at lower cost than was possible before.

A virtualized SD-WAN, provisioned and maintained from a central orchestrator, now provides a securely segmented, service-assured, policy-based and highly scalable network. You enjoy all the benefits of a private network on the public Internet.

From a unified control plane, you can now manage application-specific policies, topologies, connection types, and traffic classes to your network, which scales comfortably to tens of thousands of locations. Branch rollout is simplified with Zero Touch Provisioning, and Dynamic Path Control eliminates the effect of brownouts and more efficiently utilizes all of your WAN links.

A single pane of glass now controls every facet of the SD-WAN including encryption, segmentation, path selection, performance, and QoS. A health dashboard provides detailed visibility into all WAN link conditions, collecting and correlating thousands of data points to measure--and adjust--brownout characteristics (loss, latency, and jitter) per sets of application or devices.

All of the above features include the benefit of path conditioning (FEC and packet order correction) for MPLS-like resiliency over the Internet, and further performance increases can be selectively enabled for latency mitigation and data reduction.

WAN designs should satisfy application requirements.

Agile Topologies

  • Ability to add extra links to increase capacity on demand

  • Ability to expeditiously define new segmented topologies to onboard applications like Guest WiFi, Video/Voice or Cloud

  • Ability to optimize Cloud traffic with efficient routing

Features to make this possible? Transport-agnostic, segmented topologies, centralized management


  • All links should be active-active with LTE being the backup

  • Critical Applications should meet SLAs irrespective of blackouts, brownouts or any other degrading networking events

Features to make this possible? Single Overlay over MPLS+Broadband+LTE, Clean separation of control and data plane, Intelligent routing with WAN Path Control

Simplified Management

  • Zero Touch Bringup of sites

  • Central visibility of all applications on the network

  • Proactive mitigation policies

Features to make this possible? Integrated authentication, App Identification, App-based policies  

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