Sometimes UCaaS over SD-WAN is Great

by Sorell Slaymaker

Enterprises wanting the performance guarantees and security of MPLS without the high costs and long install times should utilize SD-WAN technologies with the Internet for their UCaaS offering.  While all the major UCaaS vendors offer an SD-WAN option, not all of them perform the same.   To ensure Over The Top (OTT) success of your UCaaS service, make sure they meet the five requirements listed below.

With the proper implementation of SD-WAN technology, enterprises can stop using private MPLS networks and instead use the public Internet to connect users to services.  MPLS networks add latency (back haul to PE router and the number of MPLS POPS dwarfs that of Internet exchange points), do not have publicly available caching of content, are overly expensive with vendor contracts that lock one in for years, and take months to provision.

Yes, voice is a critical application that is very sensitive to delays, dropped packets, and jitter, but SD-WAN technologies have overcome these inherent challenges with the “best effort” Internet by using multiple Internet paths (dedicated, cable, DSL, LTE).  MPLS is no longer required for performance and security guarantees.

Ensure your UCaaS vendor’s SD-WAN solution provides the following functions when relying on an Internet OTT architecture:

  • Sub-Second Stateful Failover – Ability to go to another network link if network latency, dropped packets, or jitter exceeds a predefined thresholds. Failover to LTE link is a critical test for smaller sites where putting in a second Internet link is over-kill.  Traditionally, network rerouting only occurred when the network went down, not if it got congested, and took up to 5 minutes.
  • Selective Encryption – Many UCaaS offerings are TLS encrypted end-to-end already, so providing network encryption with an IPsec tunnel and another overlay for network segmentation is a bandwidth tax of 75% for an Opus based voice call. Yikes!  SD-WAN provider should provide the ability to automatically detect if an application is already encrypted and not re-encrypt.
  • MOS Reporting – Mean Opinion Score reporting for both voice and video in both directions. The MOS score can be derived by taking a given codec and the network metric of dropped packets (too much jitter equates to dropped packets).  Adaptive codecs such as Opus can tolerate greater packet loss and jitter than a fixed codec such as G.729 which will start underperforming at 1% packet loss.
  • Single Pain of Glass Management – While many UCaaS vendors have partnered with an SD-WAN vendor, they have yet to integrate the provisioning, monitoring, and reporting functions into a single system. Troubleshooting capabilities are critical to getting to root cause quickly.  The network is guilty until proven innocent, and nothing is more frustrating than to have to go to a separate platform to manage the network.  Also, zero touch implementations should be the norm.
  • Zero Trust Security – Micro-segmentation by users and groups with a whitelist access model plus some type of API security to ensure what data is going where. Being able to control and alert on functions such as remote desktop sharing is also key.

Enterprises should add into their UCaaS SLA a Quality of Experience (QoE) metric of 99.99% reliability with a MOS score above 4.0 for their users.  To get this SLA, MPLS is no longer required.