The WANs of today’s digital enterprises are complex and comprise multiple network connections. Depending on your business strategy, you may rely on public and private clouds, software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, or data hosted in your data centers.
Traditional WANs lack scalability, are costly, and often don’t provide the performance required by real-time, mission-critical apps. SD-WAN solves these issues by routing traffic over the best possible path based on the application requirements.
What is SD-WAN? SD-WAN is a network architecture that delivers a better user experience and increases agility in business operations. Instead of relying on traditional MPLS circuits, an SD-WAN can use standard internet access, such as broadband or cellular networks, to connect remote sites and users directly to cloud applications and services. The software-based secure tunnels an SD-WAN creates offer lower costs, greater availability, and a more reliable connection than backhauling traffic to centralized gateways.
Most business-driven SD-WAN solutions monitor application performance across the WAN and route traffic to ensure it’s using the best path available. It helps to prevent packet loss, latency, and jitter that can affect the quality of service (QoS) for mission-critical applications.
An advanced SD-WAN can also monitor the reliability of all underground transport services and reroute around outages. It helps to ensure that a total transport outage doesn’t interrupt critical applications.
Many SD-WAN vendors also provide a centralized management portal to automate site deployments, configurations, and operations. It can save time and effort for IT teams. Some platforms can also integrate security into the SD-WAN, leveraging capabilities such as a zero trust model (ZTP) to protect against web-based threats and ensure that only secure apps can get through. It can be significant for companies with a mobile workforce that must use public cellular and wireless networks to access cloud-based applications.
What are the Benefits of SD-WAN?
Using software to create a virtual overlay on top of existing connections to the data center, SD-WAN enables you to access your applications with a single network connection and manage them in real time. It allows you to increase capacity and lower costs by leveraging Internet services rather than specialized hardware routers.
SD-WAN can also help you improve connectivity by reducing latency, improving reliability, and increasing bandwidth. It can also provide a link-bonding capability that combines different connections at the link level, improving last-mile bandwidth for mission-critical applications.
It can also increase agility by providing a flexible WAN connectivity strategy that enables you to scale network resources on demand according to application needs. By offloading low-latency traffic over public Internet services, you can free up bandwidth on private network connections to support high-performance business apps and digital transformation initiatives.
Another benefit of SD-WAN is that it helps to reduce capital and operating costs by eliminating the need for a costly MPLS circuit. Instead, it allows you to establish secure VPN connections over standard broadband, long-term evolution (LTE) wireless, or 5G cellular networks.
It can also simplify management by allowing you to centrally deploy and update firewalls, routers, and virtual private network software from a cloud-based management console. It reduces the number of point products deployed at the edge. It improves performance by allowing centralized orchestration, zero-touch provisioning, and deep integration with other network infrastructure and cloud platforms.
What are the Challenges of SD-WAN?
SD-WAN offers many benefits that simplify networking for distributed offices. These include improved application performance, reduced reliance on MPLS connections, and automated redundancy across WAN links.
SD-WAN creates a transport-agnostic virtual overlay that abstracts underlying Internet broadband, fiber, long-term evolution (LTE), or multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) connections. It can automatically send low-priority data over a cheaper public Internet connection while reserving private links for mission-critical or latency-sensitive applications. It boosts network and application availability, improves performance, and reduces costs.
Traditional networking architectures backhaul traffic from remote offices and branch locations over a private network to a central internet security point, which can increase costs and introduce latency into the application. An SD-WAN can eliminate backhauling, reduce costs, and improve user productivity and experience by enabling local internet breakout for cloud applications.
Unlike VPNs, an SD-WAN can optimize applications by assessing bandwidth requirements and prioritizing traffic for better performance. The product offers a trustworthy and dependable link to cloud-based applications. Your distributed workforce can work from home, on the road, or in a new office without slowing down their business-critical applications or creating security risks. It can drive significant cost savings for organizations that rely on a mobile workforce. The SD-WAN also provides centralized management and policy control for multiple network services, easing the addition or removal of locations as your business grows or shrinks.
What are the Solutions for SD-WAN?
Many small businesses need help with the complexity of connecting to networks and cloud applications. It is often due to competing for bandwidth with local or cloud-based data. It may cause poor performance, expensive connectivity costs, and an inability to scale up or down as business needs change.
A key solution is a software-defined network (SDN) infrastructure. Fabric Edge devices, an SD-Access Controller, and an SD-WAN Management Portal provide network connectivity and centralized management. Fabric Edge devices provide the data plane, while the SD-Access Controller and Management Portal are responsible for implementing network policies and controls.
Another key solution is application-awareness and WAN optimization. It includes the ability to prioritize traffic based on criticality, monitor the performance of individual SaaS and IaaS applications, and provide active network and application experience monitoring. It also enables businesses to choose the best connection for each application, such as MPLS, commodity broadband internet, 3G/4G/5G wireless, LTE, or 5G cellular, without changing the applications or losing functionality.
Centralized control and management also simplify setting up new branches, deploying firmware or software updates, or adding new connections to improve WAN performance. It helps reduce the need to configure each branch office router with an SD-WAN gateway manually. It can increase efficiency by pushing a policy directly from a hub data center or the cloud.