Is There a Future for Blockchain-Enabled SD-WAN?

It is clear that as software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) becomes mainstream, it will have the flexibility and adaptability to help drive the future of blockchain.

Combining blockchain with SD-WAN will lower transaction costs by speeding up processing times, and logging detailed packet-level flow data of every node verification of every transaction — thus mitigating audit and regulatory risk.

Clearly there are issues to be worked out, such as private blockchains versus public blockchains, but the use cases for SD-WAN are starting to materialize.

Traditional networks are notorious for being expensive, static, and taking months to deploy, which is simply unacceptable for a blockchain-enabled network. To be successful, a blockchain transport layer needs low-cost public internet links that can be deployed with reliability, and must always be available to all users.

Because of its support for real-time application performance and predictable service assurance, it is highly probable that SD-WAN will play an important role in future blockchain deployments. As SD-WAN becomes more prominent and blockchain technology advances, it is easy to envision using blockchain architecture as a transport layer, with a centralized SD-WAN controller to manage real-time system events and network activity.

Given that a blockchain records transactions with permanent verifiability, and excels at securing and protecting records, an SD-WAN controller could leverage blockchain to manage network and system events.

In fact, Hyperledger, an open source collaborative effort created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies, is already beginning to evaluate how blockchain can be incorporated as an software-defined networking (SDN) component.

Since each block is a momentary record of a transaction or event, the entire chain must be visible to all stakeholders across multiple networks. And as every new record must be verified by every node — and because no one person or record can break the chain — it’s next to impossible to disrupt the network traffic. The key advantage with blockchain is that ledgers are unlikely to get out of sync.

SD-WAN already lays down its own blocks in some sense, particularly in instances where SD-WAN is measuring for latency and congestion or packet-by-packet for end-user Quality of Experience (QoE) standards. Since blockchain also entails adding new blocks dynamically to existing chains, the ability of SD-WAN to intelligently provision ‘elastic’ bandwidth based on the number and size of blocks is also key to improving the price and performance of blockchain transactions.

While bitcoin is currently the most popular application for blockchain, other real-time apps that are very transactional in nature, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM), may migrate to blockchain because of the distributed nature of the edge network required to deliver the highest QoE to every user.