How SD-WAN Improves Cloud Application Performance


I find it remarkable how dependent my productivity is on cloud-based applications today. This is especially true when I communicate with colleagues. Most of the applications we use to collaborate—email, web conferencing, VoIP, file sharing, and project management tools—run in the cloud. My productivity has become dependent not only on the cloud but also on wide area network (WAN) links that carry cloud-based application traffic. SD-WAN (software-defined WAN) is a technology that can do much to ensure strong cloud application performance from the end-user perspective.

Riverbed recently published an eBook called the Essential Guide to Cloud Networking with SD-WAN. One of the topics it covers is how this technology can improve cloud application performance.

SD-WAN and cloud-connected networks

Faced with unpredictable performance of the Internet and other public networks as well as inconsistency of application performance across users and geographies, organizations are turning to SD-WAN for performance assurance across cloud-connected networks.

Here are three ways SD-WAN can improve network and application performance:

1. Identify and prioritize network traffic by application

A network engineer can use a policy engine to create a set of rules so SD-WAN devices will use an appropriate network path for each application. This opens the door to using broadband Internet more effectively in conjunction with traditional MPLS links. For example, SD-WAN can steer the packets of critical applications down paths with adequate bandwidth and minimal latency. On the other hand, policies can also be set so lower priority traffic of Internet browsing and file backups is always sent across the most cost-effective connections, where performance may be less reliable.

2. Steer traffic around last-mile congestion

SD-WAN monitors the health of each network link using metrics that include latency, packet jitter and dropped packets. These metrics get worse when there is congestion or another problem on a WAN connection. SD-WAN can be set up to recognize this and steer traffic that would have gone onto a congested link down an alternate, healthier connection to the cloud.

SD-WAN can route traffic around last-mile congestion

3. Combine SD-WAN with WAN optimization

Although SD-WAN can steer network traffic around congested links to improve performance, it can’t help if all available paths are bad. WAN optimization improves performance across congested links and high-latency connections.

WAN optimization uses a combination of methods to dramatically reduce the number of packets sent across a WAN connection. This speeds data transfers and decreases bandwidth requirements. Similarly, WAN optimization can mitigate the effects of latency by streamlining inefficient protocols when the application server and the client are separated by long distances.

Use cases for WAN optimization with SD-WAN

Beyond performance improvement

SD-WAN also makes it possible for IT teams to design, deploy, and manage complicated networks with much greater speed and efficiency than when using traditional methods. I recommend reading Riverbed’s eBook the Essential Guide to Cloud Networking with SD-WAN to learn more.

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