SD-WAN for Homeworkers: Prohibitively Expensive or a Realistic Option?

G. Barton
G. Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • Homeworking has changed the dynamic for SD-WAN, which usually relies on physical or virtualized CPE at the corporate site, but options are available for those working from home.
  • Hardware-based solutions for homeworkers are falling in price, but may only be suitable for ‘power users.’

A growing number of SD-WAN technology vendors and network service providers (SPs) have either launched or have stated that they are developing SD-WAN solutions for homeworkers.  These usually come in two forms: small form-factor SD-WAN routers or software clients.

Examples of hardware solutions include Palo Alto Networks CloudGenix’s recently launched ‘nano SD-WAN’ ION 1000 SD-WAN CPE (list price $490) or the smaller versions of VMware’s edge SD-WAN appliances (circa $600).  The devices can self-configure once connected to the home internet, offer a slimmed-down version of the SD-routing and breakout capabilities of larger SD-WAN equipment, and usually include built-in security and WiFi capabilities.  These devices can also prioritize work-related traffic over services such video on demand (e.g., Netflix) and online gaming.  

Soft clients offer a cheaper and easier way to deploy solutions, but are much more limited.  Software solutions can deliver a VPN/IPsec tunnel into the corporate network which offers definite security benefits, but much less application performance enhancement.

An example of a service provider which has offered both types of solution is Masergy.  Its ‘SD-WAN Home’ proposition provides small form-factor CPE based on Fortinet’s FortiGate SD-WAN technology and includes WiFi, SD-WAN routing, local breakouts, Masergy’s Threat Management Response (TMR) security solution, and LTE failover.  It also features a UCaaS component including a Polycom video IP phone and SD-WAN enhanced UCaaS performance.  Masergy’s ‘SD-WAN on the Go’ is a client-based solution for laptops/PCs and mobile devices/tablets which includes an ‘always-on’ VPN and TMR and will default connect to the SD-WAN Home CPE’s WiFi connection if the user has it.  The client will work on PCs, laptops, and mobile devices.

Service providers are investing in their network edge technology, which will allow them to offer increased SD-WAN functionality without the need for CPE.  But this technology is still at an early phase, and it will still not be able to match the performance of a solution that includes SD-WAN enabled CPE – at least not for some time.

The likely solution for enterprises will be a balance.  For many employees, there will not be a clear need for SD-WAN enhanced connectivity.  Applications such as Microsoft Office 365, Zoom, and Salesforce will work to an acceptable level on most home broadband connections.  However, for senior-level employees and those with a need to access/perform data-heavy processes (e.g., design or media content), the investment of a few hundred dollars may be very worthwhile.  This is particularly true if homeworking becomes a long-term normal practice since one-off hardware costs can be balanced against the savings made from reducing office space.    

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