Shedding light on broadband performance for an optimized SD-WAN

A decade ago, if I had asked a network manager to consider using broadband to connect branch offices, he would have looked at me as if I had a second head. Times and opinions change, though, and broadband is now as viable as MPLS or any other network service.

The catalyst for this has been the rise of software-defined WANs (SD-WANs). Their multipath capabilities and network optimization make it possible to use broadband for business connectivity, and organizations of all sizes have been jumping aboard this trend. One of the challenges that remain, though, is that not all connections or types of broadband are created equal.

Not all broadband is created equal

A network manager at a business with branches located nationwide recently told me that his company’s preferred broadband type has been cable, but he has been surprised by the variability in the resulting bandwidth by location and time of day. For example, in one large metro area, he is purchasing 50MB of bandwidth, more than adequate for most branches. During the mornings he often sees throughput of 100MB or more. Later in the day, however, when kids get home from school and the Xboxes and Netflix subscriptions start coming online, he has seen his bandwidth drop to as low as 8MB. 

He’s not alone in this experience. Broadband variability is a big problem for companies looking to shift to SD-WAN, and network professionals might wish they had a “broadband scorecard” to help them decide which type of broadband to use.