Internet Based Networks for SD-WAN: Should I Care?

by Adam Gervin

When it comes to networks and SD-WAN, businesses have an increasing number of options. And with that comes a whole lot of confusion.

Most enterprises see this world in two colors: last-mile (Internet) or Private Network (MPLS).

Internet-based Networks for SD-WAN: Should I Care?

It's pretty common to call these last-mile connected networks "Internet" or "Internet-based" but that can be pretty misleading. The only thing that necessarily makes them "Internet" is their use of a last-mile connection to your SD-WAN.

Beyond the last mile, solutions range from Internet Core (the only true Internet network in this case), to Optimized Internet, to Private Networks. Yes, private networks that connect via last-mile, and perform like traditional private networks.

We all know that MPLS offers private-network performance. At a great cost. And often, great pain (operationally speaking).

We also know that these "Internet-based" networks that connect via last-mile to your SD-WAN are the future. So, in thinking about your future, here's the question of the day:

Do differences among these Internet-based networks matter to most businesses? To your business?

It's already been shown that last-mile Internet can be part of a reliable, high-performance enterprise WAN. Redundancy functions in SD-WANs makes this even more true. It's also been shown that most performance variability, e.g. latency variation, happens in the core (>99%), and not the last mile.

We know that when it comes to cloud-evolved businesses that rely on hybrid or multicloud, SaaS, long-distance collaboration, etc.- milliseconds matter. For example, a single millisecond difference between financial networks can cost an institution $4M. A 1Gbps connection with 30ms of latency has 17.4 Mbps of effective throughput. At 50ms of latency, audio gets choppy. At 80ms, video goes the same way. Amazon loses 1% of sales for every 100ms of network latency. And SaaS usage drops by 8% every 200ms.

The ultimate comparison of Internet-based networks would be a study of performance extremes: poor, plain old Internet on one hand, and an Internet-connected next-generation private core on the other. It’s not fair.

So we did it anyway.

Public vs Private Infographic

Designing a meaningful study of public versus Internet-connected private network performance in the context of the modern hybrid Enterprise poses significant challenges. The unpredictable nature of the Internet, combined with its massive scale and rapidly-changing peering structure, complicates quantitative comparison. Measure too little for too short a period of time, and the data may be anomalous.

We overcompensated. Working with our service provider partners, we collected 320+ million data points over four weeks, among 32 last-mile locations, 24 cloud instances, two cloud providers, and four continents. We are proud of the result: a study of substantial power.

The results of this extensive research will be published shortly as The 2019 Public vs. Private WAN Performance Comparison. Which is really a comparison between Internet and an Internet-connected private network for your SD-WAN. Both share the last mile. The core is where they differ.

If you were to ask me at this time how it all turned out, it might go something like this: public_v_private_thumb

You: Hey, Adam, are you certain that using an Internet-connected Private Network for my SD-WAN can really help my business.

Me: I am not uncertain (thanks, Dollar Bill)!

But let's not beat around the bush. You can take a look at our one-page results summary and decide for yourself. And if you're really curious, we might even let you peek at the entire paper. We will cover the details further in a future blog.

Tune in next week to learn what my car wash and your enterprise network have in common. Hint: It's got nothing to do with Armor All.