Building A Better Federal Network: The Road To SD-WAN
One of the stranger car experiments in the early 1990s was the Chrysler TC, a Maserati-designed body placed over a Chrysler-manufactured “K-car” (remember those?) chassis and equipped with a Chrysler engine. Yes, it sounds a little odd today, but it was the late, great Lee Iacocca’s first real attempt to produce a luxury car.
I don’t bring the Chrysler TC up to simply reminisce about weird old automobiles, but rather to set the stage to talk about the modernization of government information technology.
Modernizing agency IT infrastructure requires a secure network foundation. The problem is, not all networks are created the same – many of them can’t support new, innovative applications. Additionally, we are at a point where many, if not all agencies are focused on a new challenge with the current health crisis. Agency resources have had to switch their focus to navigate a new environment of more remote users and teleworkers. This is another reason why many agencies are looking for help to modernize and transform, to support both end user needs and the networks themselves.
Unlike the Chrysler TC, which brought disparate philosophies, concepts, and components together in the hope that the final product would be greater than than the sum of its parts, a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) can provide the framework for turning a K-car-like network into a bona fide Maserati. An SD-WAN will securely connect any user to any application and increase user productivity by optimizing both cloud and on-premise application performance.
SD-WAN overlay networks utilize intelligent, application-aware software to steer traffic over the most optimal network technology, based on business policies and technical metrics. This means that federal agencies do not have to depend solely on Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) links for multi-site connectivity, but instead can consider hybrid wide-area network (WAN) deployments that leverage both the Internet and MPLS connections. However, agencies may feel overwhelmed by that prospect, since implementation can be challenging.
This is where we can help. As a hybrid networking, cloud connectivity, and security solutions provider, CenturyLink has experience in designing and implementing networks worldwide, including SD-WAN. We can build out your hybrid network to provide maximum efficiency and security, and help to ensure that it is well-maintained and positioned for easy expansion as needed.
In fact, CenturyLink’s SD-WAN management expertise is a fundamental part of Cisco’s SD-WAN offerings. Cisco is also pursuing FedRAMP certification for its technology – which would make it the first SD-WAN solution to achieve that official stamp of approval.
How To Get Started
We like to recommend a four-step process for agencies that want to undertake network modernization:
- First, identify what your specific business drivers are for SD-WAN, such as cost savings, improved network visibility, targeted application performance, and greater security. Then quantify those benefits. The rationale for SD-WAN should be tightly connected to federal digital transformation initiatives.
- Next, you should thoroughly review your current environment, including an inventory of sites and types of offices, applications and performance requirements, and existing network connections and utilization. Determine whether SD-WAN will be a dedicated on-premise installation or hosted in the cloud.
- Then, examine which workloads would perform well on broadband Internet links, and which will require MPLS connections due to more stringent performance requirements.
- Finally, evaluate the agency’s current router platform to decide whether it will be leveraged or replaced. SD-WAN capabilities can often be added to existing router platforms, which preserves capital investment and reduces hardware sprawl.
As we have done with many federal agencies and commercial businesses, CenturyLink partners with our customers and works with them to help complete these steps. Once done, agencies can more easily build their roadmaps, ranking sites agency-wide by the greatest need. This provides a starting point for identifying potential pilot programs to demonstrate the value of SD-WAN.
Whether you are just starting to consider SD-WAN or are half-way there, you can find helpful information to develop a roadmap for SD-WAN in our recent white paper, “Agency Roadmap for Digital Transformation with SD-WAN”, which provides the detail needed to achieve network transformation.
Take a look for yourself and avoid the fate of the well-intentioned, but poorly-planned Chrysler TC.
This blog is provided for informational purposes only and may require additional research and substantiation by the end user. In addition, the information is provided “as is” without any warranty or condition of any kind, either express or implied. Use of this information is at the end user’s own risk. CenturyLink does not warrant that the information will meet the end user’s requirements or that the implementation or usage of this information will result in the desired outcome of the end user.