What Is SD-WAN and Should You Consider It?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WANs) help businesses lower costs and become more productive, serving as an alternative to WAN optimization.

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How does SD-WAN work?

SD-WAN integrates software-defined networking (SDN) concepts with wide area network (WAN) connections, resulting in a more concise and centralized hub for traffic management and monitoring. SD-WAN applies management and monitoring across individual applications for high-quality user experiences and quick app performance — securely and quickly across locations that are geographically spread out.

SD-WAN offers a variety of benefits for business, though companies should consider several factors.

The Function of SD-WAN

A primary goal of SD-WAN is to enable high-performance WANs that utilize commercial and low-cost internet instead of using expensive private WAN connections. SD-WAN is more fiscally viable as a result — it allows businesses to create hybrid WAN architecture capable of binding broadband, mobile and MPLS paths to result in a single, centralized path able to adapt to network conditions.

SD-WAN addresses branch infrastructure requirements and applications, which is essential in the modern workplace, where applications such as ERP and CRM systems, video conferencing, virtual desktops and VoIP have crucial functions. These platforms often require ample bandwidth while also being utterly mandatory for daily operations. If any of these platforms are offline for even several minutes, the downtime can detrimentally impact an entire day's productivity and damage client relationships.

Upgrading network bandwidth is an option to address WAN constraints, though it’s very costly, especially when SD-WAN exists. Plus, no matter how much bandwidth gets an upgrade, bandwidth alone cannot address the ever-changing state of data and applications.

Benefits of SD-WAN

Before taking the plunge into SD-WAN, businesses should be aware of its primary benefits. Some companies have certain connectivity requirements and use private-based networking like MPLS as a result, though the majority of businesses will reap benefits.

Compared to private-based networking, SD-WAN offers superior security by unifying secure connectivity and end-to-end encryption throughout the entire network. All devices and endpoints undergo complete authentication, courtesy of software-defined security and scalable key-exchange functionality.

Whereas MPLS entails bandwidth penalties, SD-WAN has no penalties. SD-WAN users can cost-effectively incorporate network links based on priority or content type. Since broadband and 4G are cheaper than MPLS, SD-WAN users can opt for those instead of MPLS' more expensive network.

SD-WAN provides better application performance and reduced costs by harnessing broadband and mobile connections, with the hybrid WAN architecture giving the flexibility to prioritize essential business traffic on platforms like VoIP and video conferencing. Less reliance on MPLS also results in superior disaster recovery and risk management since SD-WAN makes it more feasible to maintain connectivity during network failures.

Choosing Between SD-WAN Vendors

With the SD-WAN market anticipating to eclipse $6 billion in value in 2020, it’s no surprise that the number of available SD-WAN vendors continues to increase. Vendors range from large networking vendors to venture-funded startups and WAN specialists. As a result, businesses should be prudent and ask themselves some key questions when deciding which SD-WAN vendors to pursue.

First, decide which applications you need to run. SD-WAN vendors provide policy-based networking, so consult with them to ensure that your applications are suitable and prioritization is seamless.

Also, clarify with the vendor how much bandwidth you require. If you have various data centers across the world, you’ll need more bandwidth. Explaining your level of bandwidth can help result in the fairest price. On that topic, SD-WAN equipment can be either on-premises or via the cloud, so speak with vendors regarding your budget and preference in delivery.

All in all, SD-WAN provides advantageous and productive networking solutions for business, delivering better security and reliability for applications at a lower cost than MPLS.

Author: Nathan Sykes is a business and tech enthusiasts and writer from Pittsburgh, PA. You can find more posts from him on Finding an Outlet.

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