Macquarie Telecom has led the way with SD-WAN solutions with the largest number of networks deployed, not only in Australia, but across Asia Pacific. Leveraging VeloCloud’s world-leading SD-WAN technology, and building on the challenges and opportunities we’ve identified along the way, Macquarie has been learning, improving and finessing our design.
This is our SD-WAN Scars and Stars story.
Part 1: SD-WAN Design
Customer Design Templates
One of SD-WAN’s most powerful features is its ability to tailor customer applications’ prioritisation, routing and network designs. This capability allows Service Providers to uniquely customise networks for every customer (a Star), which paradoxically also became a Scar.
Tailored customer network design – sounds great right? Through three years’ experience in designing SD-WAN networks, Macquarie has developed hundreds of bespoke customer network designs. In reality, these bespoke customer networks were often time consuming and impractical to design. When we reflected and analysed all the SD-WAN networks we had deployed, we realised some valuable learnings.
- Bespoke customer designs took a long time for our solution architects to develop. While well meaning, these resources are expensive and can be better used in front of customers rather than behind the scenes designing custom networks.
- Looking back, we considered all the permutations that we had designed, sold and deployed, and realised that we could categorise most SD-WAN networks into 12 design types.
Macquarie has templated these designs within a framework that allows our solutions architects to design customer networks faster and more consistently. These templates include SD-WAN Head Office, Remote office, Data Centre, Hub & Spoke, Local Internet Breakout, Over-The-Top, and more.
Within these design templates, you can fine tune the design profiles based on specific customer applications and requirements. These SD-WAN templates also have appealing advantages for the service delivery team to deploy networks faster, and for the service assurance team to fast-track troubleshooting network issues. These will be addressed in the Build and Operate white paper later in the series.
Some customer template examples:
- High availability sites: Dual SD-WAN, large edge with NBN Enterprise Ethernet, diverse carrier access and 4G backup
- Large Branch: SD-WAN medium edge with NBN, diverse carrier access plus 4G, with local internet breakout
- Small Branch: SD-WAN small edge with NBN plus 4G
- Data Centre: 2x SD-WAN virtual edge, carrier redundant access links
In summary, the network design templates have been a real Star to efficiently optimise repeatable customer SD-WAN designs.
4G Back-Up and Coverage
One of the standard features of Macquarie’s VeloCloud SD-WAN network design is multiple WAN accesses for increased reliability. Significant improvements in network performance can be achieved using 4G as a secondary link (via a 4G ethernet modem on the SD-WAN edge device WAN port) to maintain near perfect end user experience. This capability is absolutely a Star – the 4G access can be set up in back-up mode, voice boost or active.
- Active: 4G actively augments the primary link performance including improving the QoS, jitter and packet loss. 4G is on all the time as a secondary link. It is a very effective site link enhancement architecture. Perfect for sites with limited bandwidth options such as copper / ADSL type services.
- Back-up Mode: If there’s a fibre cut to the primary access to a site, the 4G link cuts in to maintain site connectivity. This ensures continuity of business critical applications, and end user experience. It is a great balance of cost efficiency and resilience, that’s a Star.
- Application Boost: Ideal for critical applications such as voice, to ensure that these defined traffic types gets routing priority. The SD-WAN edge device will activate 4G to remediate any primary route degradation.
Link Bonding performance remediation
Scars? Sure. The obvious trap to avoid is excess 4G data usage charges. In the case of an extended access outage, the SD-WAN edge seamlessly switches to 4G data. This access can be active for hours or even days causing significant excess 4G data usage and associated costs. The big learnings here are:
- Get the 4G mobile data cap plan right – if there is no plan, or you get the cap plan wrong, there can be large cost blowouts for both the service provider and customer.
- Define application profiles that only send mission critical apps via 4G and do not permit low priority apps over 4G such as social media, YouTube, and computer updates.
We now know 4G is a fantastic augmentation to SD-WAN, but we do have some other Scars from 4G relating to coverage issues. When our field engineers go to site, and see four bars of good 4G coverage – all good right? Well not always.
The edge device on the customer site is often located in a rack, or a rack in a data centre, or a rack in a data centre in the basement. The 4G signal strength, and consequently throughput, can be degraded, and the overall performance reduced. We are proud to announce that we have solved this coverage issue with an external 4G ethernet modem, which can be mounted separately from the SD-WAN edge device by an ethernet cable up to 50m. Additionally, this modem has two aerials with vastly superior performance to a 4G dongle. This one is both a Scar and a Star story.
Network quality Improvement
One of the outstanding features of a Macquarie’s VeloCloud SD-WAN network design is the “packet steering capability” and packet duplication across multiple links to provide significant quality enhancement and increased access availability. If a customer has a primary and secondary link, significant improvements in network quality performance can be achieved to augment the QoS, jitter, packet loss, latency and availability.
Application Steering performance enhancement
Traditional MPLS networks tended to have a heavily utilised primary link, and an idle secondary link. Hence the maximum capacity of the network was 50%. In an SD-WAN mindset, why not use all of the capacity of primary and secondary links combined? That is, use 100% of what you have paid for. A Star!
One of the key features of SD-WAN is the ability to direct internet traffic either through a centralised corporate firewall or to route some applications (e.g. guest Wi-Fi, Office 365, whitelisted websites and trusted applications) to local internet breakout. The ability to breakout internet locally provides cost savings in terms of reducing backhaul costs and centralised firewalling function.
There is an emerging trend for customers in recognising that not all traffic needs to come back through the HQ firewall and security platforms, depending on its application risk profile. Indeed, the two current technology hyper trends for (1) moving workloads to the cloud and (2) migrating applications to an SaaS environment, are perfects examples of using SD-WAN local breakout. SD-WAN’s app routing capabilities is definitely a shining Star.
Macquarie’s VeloCloud by VMware technology has developed virtual edges running on VMs to provide private and public cloud instances and to extend the network boundary securely into the cloud. This means your cloud infrastructure, for example in Azure, is an extension of your current network. This provides you with visibility, control and management of the network connection, from the single pane of glass VeloCloud ‘Orchestrator’ portal.
Over The Top
As well as being the #1 SD-WAN provider in Australia, Macquarie Telecom operates a coast-to-coast national data network, including underlying access, backhaul, trunking switching and routing. While we run SD-WAN across our own network, we can also provide over-the-top SD-WAN services across other carrier networks or even Internet services. This is quite attractive for several reasons including the following Stars:
- Customers that have long contract terms with other providers but require a more controllable network and want to start a journey to another provider.
- Customers that want to stage the network migration to deliver a low risk network cutover strategy from another provider.
- A need for rapid network deployments (e.g. temporary contract offices, emergency communications, sites with performance issues)
- Customers who want a management overlay with controls and visibility at the application level.
Customer Application Profile
One of the well-documented customer benefits of SD-WAN is the ability to identify and prioritise business applications. Not all apps require the same priorities – voice needs low jitter (but is less sensitive to packet drop), transactional apps need zero packet loss – hence there are varying routing priorities required in the network.
Macquarie’s solution identifies over 3,000 applications. The ability to tune these applications into traffic classes (three classes of priority: High, Normal, Low. Overlaid by three traffic types: Real-time, Transactional, Bulk), provides three big Stars:
- Increased network capacity,
- Guarantees critical applications performance,
- And inherently increases the user experience.
Let’s bring this to life with three examples:
- Social media can be considered by some customers to be a low priority app, whilst for other companies – such as news and media companies – social media is absolutely critical. With SD-WAN, you choose if you want social media to be low or high priority.
- Financial transactional applications and ERP systems are business critical. With SD-WAN, you can readily identify these app as ‘high priority / transactional’ to ensure maximum performance.
- Windows updates are a recognised application by VeloCloud and can be prioritised as ‘low priority / bulk’ to avoid impact on critical apps during peak periods.
So, how do you efficiently identify traffic types, volumes and the relative application priorities? Many of our customer initially didn’t really know the traffic volumes that these applications were driving across the network. From our learnings (Scars) over the last three years, we have developed customer application profile templates. These are designed to cater for 80% of the apps that we see among businesses, with additional custom options for sites or customers with different needs. This is another Star story.
In conclusion, Macquarie Telecom’s experience over more than three years running Australia’s largest SD-WAN deployments has given us great knowledge in designing optimised, high performance and cost-effective customer SD-WAN solutions for our customers.
This experience in running networks has given as some Scars, like bespoke design for each customer network. But our learnings have also generated some wonderful Stars such as over-the-top solutions, and customer policy templating. Not to mention Macquarie Telecom’s selection of VeloCloud by VMware, as one of the best SD-WAN vendors in the world, as validated by Gartner.
More importantly, we have been able to provide great service to our customers. Macquarie’s industry-leading +64 Net Promotor Score by our customers over the last six months tells the story. Follow the link to our SD-WAN reference customer, Transit Systems.