ContentInsightsWorking from home – VeloCloud SD WAN Trial

Working from home – VeloCloud SD WAN Trial

As most of us are staying at home and distancing ourselves physically, organisations are evaluating the best way to offer education programs. Cavell has significant experience in instructor led on-line classes so we wanted to share our experience and thoughts.

If you decide instructor led courses online are your best option, there are a few areas to consider:

  1. What platform to use for the remote classroom
  2. How to structure the course
  3. Instructor preparedness for mastering an on-line environment

In this first installment we will look at assessing what tool to use for the remote classroom.

Cavell closely follows COVID-19’s impact on the Cloud Networking and Communications industry.  So, when VMware announced a free trail for home working we jumped on the chance to gain hands on experience.  Thanks to VeloCloud for taking the initiative to run these free trials.

We are still in midst of the trial, and will blog later about any technical findings.  Today I wanted to cover our experience about the operational and people aspects of using SD WAN at home.

COVID-19 means that companies have scrambled to put in place work from home solutions at large scale. SD WAN is an alternative to the most common practice of remote VPNs and can bring some advantages such as:

  • Improving quality of service for business-critical applications
  • Matching and perhaps improving security characteristics of VPN
  • Potentially easier provisioning and less overload on centralized resources like servers.
  • Higher visibility to corporate IT staff on both application and network performance.

We have consultants and instructors in 5 countries participating (Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, UK).  Most homes that received an SD WAN device have an experienced network engineer, some of which specifically specialize in SD WAN.

What we have learned so far:

  • Visibility is a double edge sword, one team member’s family member was uncomfortable with having all his application use visible, so the device was never installed.
    • There is a tradeoff between keeping it simple and just having work devices behind the SD WAN CPE and gaining full benefit in terms of QoS, availability and access repair which means having all traffic traversing the SD WAN CPE.
  • Improvement varies by country (access quality) with some participants reporting noticeable quality improvements and others stating everything worked perfectly before.
    • Availability does improve of course in case of failure for those using LTE version, but line failures are fairly rare.
    • Line speed is not necessarily the main determinant of perceived quality as some very high capacity lines had significant packet loss and jitter.
  • Even very experienced engineers are timid about introducing change to their home network, fearing interruptions to schoolwork or spouses’ work. A spouses’ criticism will quickly stop all change and experimentation.
  • Installation was pretty simple and with some pilot experience a corporation can probably build a robust process. However, some caveats to think about in the support process as being drawn into home networking issues might be difficult for IT support teams:
    • Where issues arise they often involve consumer applications, for example one of our homes had issues with Netflix, but only on TV not mobile devices
    • Often there are other family members home working so conflict could occur between two different company’s approaches.
    • Existing home WiFi and the SD WAN router WiFi can conflict.
    • Not all service providers have a modem function, separate from the router, so SD WAN box will often sit behind the broadband router, and these devices will vary by provider.

There is no doubt SD WAN technology may play a role in re-shaping corporations’ approach to home networking – but the same policy issues that have always bedeviled work from home programs will need to be addressed:

  • Should the company or the worker pay for the line?
  • How to share responsibilities and visibility if work and home share the same resources?
  • How much should the corporation know about Internet and computer usage (even during work hours) for someone working from home.?

We would love to hear from you about your thoughts on what will emerge from this vast work from home experiment, and what you believe Service Providers’ approach might be to tap into this expanded market area.

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Gail Smith spent ten years in senior management at organisations that disrupted the telecoms industry and created the backbone of the new digital economy.