April 16, 2024

Centralized Management and Orchestration in SDWAN Deployment vs Distributed Management and Orchestration

9 min read
Discover the pros and cons of centralized management and orchestration versus distributed management and orchestration in SDWAN deployment.
A network of computers connected by a network of cables

A network of computers connected by a network of cables

Software-defined wide area networking (SDWAN) is a revolutionary technology that is rapidly replacing traditional wide area networking (WAN) infrastructure. SDWAN offers a flexible, secure, and cost-effective solution that simplifies network management, improves network performance, and enhances user experience. One of the key differences between SDWAN and traditional WAN is the way management and orchestration of network resources are handled. In SDWAN, management and orchestration can be done using either a centralized or distributed approach. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of both approaches in SDWAN deployment and provide insights into which approach may work best for your business needs.

Understanding the Basics of SDWAN Technology

Before we dive into the details of centralized and distributed management and orchestration, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what SDWAN is and how it works. SDWAN is a software-defined network that allows businesses to connect and manage multiple locations or branches over a wide area network (WAN). Instead of relying on expensive, fixed bandwidth connections such as MPLS, SDWAN offers a more flexible and cost-effective solution by leveraging different types of network connections such as broadband internet, 4G/5G, or even satellite and microwave links. SDWAN also uses advanced network management and orchestration techniques to optimize network traffic and improve network performance, thereby enhancing user experience.

One of the key benefits of SDWAN is its ability to provide secure connectivity between different locations or branches. SDWAN uses encryption and other security measures to protect data as it travels across the network, ensuring that sensitive information remains confidential and secure. Additionally, SDWAN allows businesses to easily manage and monitor their network from a centralized location, providing greater visibility and control over network performance and security. With these features, SDWAN is becoming an increasingly popular choice for businesses looking to improve their network infrastructure and reduce costs.

The Evolution of SDWAN Management and Orchestration

The first generation of SDWAN solutions relied on a distributed management and orchestration approach, where each edge device at the branch-level would perform local policy routing and forwarding decisions. This approach worked well for simple networks, but it had limitations when it came to more complex networks. As the demand for more sophisticated SDWAN solutions grew, a new approach emerged, known as centralized management and orchestration.

Centralized management and orchestration involves a single controller that manages and orchestrates all the edge devices in the network. This approach provides a more holistic view of the network, allowing for better control and management of policies and traffic. It also enables more advanced features, such as application-aware routing and dynamic path selection.

However, centralized management and orchestration also has its drawbacks. It can be more complex to set up and manage, and there is a risk of a single point of failure. Additionally, it may not be suitable for networks with high latency or limited bandwidth, as all traffic must be sent to the controller for processing.

What is Centralized Management and Orchestration?

Centralized management and orchestration is a networking approach that involves a central controller that manages and controls network resources across all the nodes in the SDWAN network. In this approach, all policies and configurations are defined at the central controller, and the network devices are merely used to enforce those policies. The central controller is responsible for collecting network data, analyzing traffic patterns, and making decisions based on the network’s needs. This approach provides a more holistic view of the network and allows for more centralized control, greater visibility, and easier scalability.

One of the key benefits of centralized management and orchestration is the ability to automate network operations. With a central controller, network administrators can automate routine tasks such as configuration updates, policy enforcement, and network monitoring. This not only saves time and reduces the risk of human error, but it also allows for more consistent and reliable network performance.

Another advantage of centralized management and orchestration is the ability to easily integrate with other network management tools. Many SDWAN solutions offer APIs and integrations with popular network management platforms, allowing for seamless integration and a more comprehensive view of the network. This can help network administrators to quickly identify and resolve issues, as well as optimize network performance and security.

How Does Distributed Management and Orchestration Work in SDWAN Deployment?

Distributed management and orchestration, on the other hand, is an approach where the network devices at the branch-level are responsible for managing and controlling network resources. Each device has a set of policies and configurations that are defined locally and enforced locally. Each device also communicates with its neighboring devices to exchange information on network conditions, optimize traffic, and adapt to changes in the network. This approach provides more localized control, faster decision making, and greater resilience, but it can also result in inconsistencies and lack of overall visibility.

One advantage of distributed management and orchestration is that it allows for greater flexibility in network design. Since each device is responsible for its own policies and configurations, it is easier to make changes and adjustments to the network without affecting the entire system. This can be particularly useful in situations where there are multiple branches with different network requirements.

However, one potential drawback of this approach is that it can be more difficult to troubleshoot network issues. With each device operating independently, it can be challenging to identify the root cause of a problem and determine the best course of action to resolve it. This is why it is important to have a comprehensive monitoring and management system in place to ensure that the network is functioning properly and to quickly identify and address any issues that arise.

Pros and Cons of Centralized Management and Orchestration in SDWAN Deployment

Centralized management and orchestration offers several advantages over the distributed approach. One of the most significant advantages is the ability to have a more comprehensive view of the network. This approach provides a more holistic and centralized view of the network, which can simplify network management and reduce the potential for human error. It also allows for easier scaling, faster deployment of configurations, and automated problem detection and resolution. However, the centralized approach can also introduce a single point of failure, and it can be less resilient in case of network failures.

Another advantage of centralized management and orchestration is the ability to enforce consistent policies across the network. With a centralized approach, policies can be defined and enforced from a single location, ensuring that all devices and locations are adhering to the same rules. This can improve security and compliance, as well as simplify troubleshooting and auditing.

On the other hand, a distributed approach can offer more flexibility and redundancy. With a distributed approach, there are multiple points of control and management, which can make the network more resilient in case of failures. Additionally, a distributed approach can be more suitable for organizations with a geographically dispersed network, as it can be challenging to manage a centralized network across multiple locations.

Pros and Cons of Distributed Management and Orchestration in SDWAN Deployment

The distributed management and orchestration approach, on the other hand, offers greater resilience and faster decision making. This approach is better suited for networks with high levels of traffic and complex routing requirements. It also provides more granular control over local policies and configurations, which can be useful for compliance purposes. However, this approach can also result in inconsistencies, difficulties in network scaling, and more complex management tasks.

Another advantage of the distributed management and orchestration approach is that it allows for better utilization of resources. By distributing management tasks across multiple devices, the workload is spread out and each device can focus on its specific responsibilities. This can lead to improved performance and reduced downtime. However, it is important to note that this approach requires a higher level of expertise and may not be suitable for smaller networks with limited resources.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Centralized or Distributed Management and Orchestration in SDWAN

When choosing between centralized or distributed management and orchestration in SDWAN deployment, there are several factors to consider. These include the size of the network, the complexity of network requirements, the need for compliance, the level of resilience required, and the overall cost of ownership. It’s important to understand the trade-offs between these factors and choose the approach that best meets your business needs.

Another important factor to consider when choosing between centralized or distributed management and orchestration in SDWAN is the level of security required. Centralized management provides a single point of control, making it easier to enforce security policies and monitor network activity. However, it also creates a single point of failure and can be vulnerable to attacks. Distributed management, on the other hand, provides greater resilience and can be more secure, but can also be more complex to manage and monitor. It’s important to weigh the security benefits and drawbacks of each approach and choose the one that best aligns with your organization’s security requirements.

Real-World Examples of Centralized vs Distributed Management and Orchestration in SDWAN Deployments

Real-world examples of centralized and distributed management and orchestration in SDWAN deployments can provide valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. For instance, a multi-national enterprise with several branch locations may choose a centralized approach due to the need for a centralized view of the network, easy scalability, and centralized control. However, a small business with only a few branch locations may opt for a distributed approach to reduce costs and avoid the potential for a single point of failure.

Another example of a scenario where a distributed approach may be preferred is in a highly regulated industry, such as healthcare or finance. In these industries, data privacy and security are of utmost importance, and a distributed approach can provide greater control and security over sensitive data. On the other hand, a centralized approach may be more suitable for industries with less stringent regulations, such as retail or hospitality, where the focus is on providing a seamless customer experience across all locations.

Best Practices for Implementing Centralized or Distributed Management and Orchestration in SDWAN Deployment

Implementing centralized or distributed management and orchestration in SDWAN deployment requires careful planning and execution. To ensure the success of the deployment, it’s important to follow best practices, such as defining clear policies and configurations, ensuring network security, monitoring network performance, and conducting regular testing. It’s also essential to choose a vendor that offers robust management and orchestration tools that align with your preferred approach.

How to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Centralized or Distributed Management and Orchestration in Your SDWAN Network

Evaluating the effectiveness of centralized or distributed management and orchestration in your SDWAN network requires a thorough assessment of several factors, such as network performance, scalability, security, resilience, and cost-effectiveness. It’s important to establish clear metrics to measure the success of the deployment, such as network uptime, user satisfaction, and overall cost savings. Regular monitoring and testing can also help identify potential issues and improve network performance over time.

Future Trends in SDWAN Management and Orchestration: What to Expect?

The future of SDWAN management and orchestration is likely to involve a combination of centralized and distributed approaches. As SDWAN technology matures, vendors are likely to offer more flexible and robust management and orchestration tools that allow for a more hybrid approach. This approach may involve a centralized controller that manages critical network policies and configurations, while the branch-level devices retain more localized control over specific policies and configurations.

Conclusion: Which Approach is Best for Your Business Needs?

In conclusion, the choice between centralized and distributed management and orchestration in SDWAN deployment largely depends on the specific needs of your business. Each approach has its pros and cons, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. By carefully evaluating the factors discussed in this article and following best practices for SDWAN deployment, you can make an informed decision that meets your business needs and enhances your network performance and user experience.

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