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The WAN Set Free

Author: John Burke, CIO and Principal Research Analyst, Nemertes Research

Three forces are coming together to fundamentally transform the WAN. First is the ability to easily leverage broadband Internet via software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) technologies. Second is the emergence of high-bandwidth wireless services, including Gigabit-class LTE and 5G. Third is the changing pricing model for wireless, from pay-per-bit to fixed-rate, fixed-bandwidth services.

Together, these forces enable the WAN to shift from being a 30- to 90-day hurdle in branch turn-up to an instant-on enabler of agile branching strategies. Moreover, they enable new use cases, such as branch-in-a-box, wireless backup, wireless bursting, and pop-up branches.

The message is clear: Now is the time to take a close look at your company’s transformative, technology-driven digital initiatives and branch strategies, and at whether the current WAN architecture is up to the challenges or something new can better drive them forward.

Using SD-WAN technologies that provide seamless load-balancing and traffic routing, a next-generation WAN can incorporate wireless WAN (WWAN) connectivity in one of four modes:
• Initial connectivity providing instant-on connectivity to new branches
• Failover connectivity seamlessly picking up if wired connections fail
• Primary connectivity or always-on but only to handle bursts above wired capacity
• WWAN-only e.g. for pop-up branches or those distant from wired options

What makes this possible is not just the emergence of higher-bandwidth wireless WAN services; it’s also provider cost models that are gradually transitioning from by-the-packet to fixed-cost for fixed-bandwidth—making these wireless services behave like wired ones from a cost perspective.

The bottom line: Wireless can be a cost-effective, high-performance adjunct to SD-WAN, and one that enables use cases that were previously impossible or un-economical. In short, SD-WAN plus WWAN equals WAN transformation.


Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • How the WAN Powers Digital Transformation
  • The Next Normal: SD-WAN Plus Wireless WAN (WWAN)
    • SD-WAN Provides the WAN Digital Transformation Needs
      • Increased Resilience and Performance
    • Four Ways to WWAN
      • Initial Connectivity: Jumpstarting Branch Offices
      • Failover Connectivity: Improving Reliability
      • Primary Connectivity: Bursting and Overflow
      • Sole Connectivity: Wireless as “the” WAN
  • WWAN Pricing Comes of Age
  • Additional WWAN Benefits
  • Future WWAN Pricing
  • Conclusion


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