5G SD-WAN Paired with Slicing and Edge Could Deliver Fit for Purpose Networks

M. Rogers

Summary Bullets:

• Integrating a 5G underlay into an SD-WAN solution can help deliver network performance with more functionality to remote sites.

• 5G technology like network slicing and edge computing can deliver a fit for purpose networks to drive better application performance and improve security.

SD-WAN is increasingly important to branch networking, enabling remote sites to be spun up more quickly and cost effectively. 5G can integrate with SD-WAN to be considered as an active-active connection with a lower cost per byte and will be able to support the branch or remote sites with performance in terms of bandwidth and latency that can begin to compare with MPLS.

As 5G matures operators will be able to offer network slicing. Network slices can be created with 5G’s capabilities – enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine type communications (mMTC), and ultra-reliable low latency communications (uRLLC) – to support applications that require these attributes. Instead of the traditional network services that are more static and often manually configured, enterprises have better ability to spin up/down services dynamically based on metrics such as bandwidth, latency, throughput, security, geography coverage, session, and reliability. This will enable operators to offer different slices with varying resources over a single mobile connection, optimizing the network based on application. 5G will be even more compelling once network slicing becomes automated and part of the self-service catalog.

Mobile edge compute (MEC) is another technological component of 5G that will have implications for enterprise networking. MEC delivers high-performance storage, compute, and network resources at the physical location of the data source or the carrier network ‘edge.’ The immediate impact is reducing the cost of data transport, lowering latency to the sub-millisecond ranges and even keeping data ‘sovereign.’ This opens up many new possibilities for customers looking to improve the performance of existing applications, create new ones around concepts like tactile Internet and drive more use cases in AI. The problem for many companies is around the ability to process the data that exists.

Using network slices, multiple virtual access lines can be created over a single mobile connection to support workloads with various performance and quality of service requirements. The glue to making these solutions work will be the ability of a service provider to automatically deliver the correct networking slice and routing to the appropriate compute resources (edge, public cloud, data center, etc.). These more dynamic use cases for 5G in SD-WAN will likely have to be delivered from an overlay-underlay approach, given the increased visibility into network health and performance required for services like bandwidth on demand or application aware networking.

5G carriers are a natural fit to provide 5G SD-WAN services, given their access to the underlay and overlay. The market is also headed this direction as hyperscalers and SD-WAN vendors are already forming partnerships with major global telcos with 5G networks to develop WAN and edge capabilities.

While the standards for network slicing in the RAN will not be released until 2021 as part of 3GPP release 17, other standards work from 3GPP release 16 involves industry specific architectures for vehicles, factory automation, and industrial IoT. As carriers expand partnerships with integrators with industry specific expertise, it might mean the beginning of industry-specific configurations for networks and applications.


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