Enterprises are regularly faced with the challenge of managing data that goes beyond the traditional network. Although artificial intelligence, cloud computing, mobile devices, and internet of things are changing how business gets done, they can also overly tax traditional networks. Now more than ever, it’s important to understand how SD WAN can alleviate those problems. This guide to the SD WAN basics will help you understand this technology and how it can help you manage your ever-changing network.
What is SD WAN?
In the most basic sense, SD WAN, or software-defined wide area network, acts as a virtual overlay to your current WAN, such as MPLS. This service leverages software-defined networking to give the network administrator more granular control to prioritize traffic.
It’s important to clarify what we mean by a WAN is before delving deeper into SD WAN. A WAN is generally a collection of local area networks (LAN) that interconnect to create one, cohesive network of computing devices. The internet, for example, is the largest WAN there is. When working well, the WAN ensures that information is passed quickly and efficiently across long distances to many different connection points.
For all its benefits, traditional WAN has its limitations too.
- It is generally static, inhibiting migration to dynamic and public cloud environments.
- It requires separate security and management requirements. When you have various branch operations to manage, you’ll need skilled, dedicated IT resources, which consequently increases operational costs.
It’s important to understand that SD WAN does not replace your traditional WAN. Rather, it sits overtop both the WAN and internet connections, complementing them by directing the flow of information in a more logical, cost-effective way. In today’s world of public and private, bandwidth-hungry applications, you need both MPLS and broadband to maintain service levels, manage costs, and stay flexible. SD WAN makes it possible to enjoy the benefits of both technologies.
Why you need SD WAN
In the past, organizations could carefully control network boundaries and manage new applications by leveraging offsite data centers. If companies needed more capacity, network administrators planned this in advance using well-timed upgrades. But all of that is changing. Now networks need to scale quickly with minimal impact to access, resiliency and performance. Perhaps you too have found your needs have grown beyond what your wide area network (WAN) can handle.
Cloud technology has necessitated much of this change, allowing users to connect easily to applications from multiple devices and operating systems, whenever and wherever they want. This means a significant amount of traffic must move off the WAN and into public cloud systems that utilize network solutions, like broadband, as a network carrier.
SD WAN platforms create a flexible network solution that integrates broadband into the WAN, while maintaining the performance and security of MPLS that real-time and sensitive applications demand.
How SD WAN works
Like a police officer directing traffic – guiding the cars, semis, RVs, taxi cabs and more through intersections toward their final destinations – SD WAN dynamically manages the flow of data and determines the priority level of applications. Mission-critical applications, such as operating systems data, are directed over the traditional wide-area-network (e.g., MPLS). Lower-priority applications, such as email, get routed to the internet (e.g., broadband). This ensures that performance isn’t affected along the mission-critical pipeline, but keeps data flowing for all users.
SD WAN is a form of software-defined networking (SDN), which utilizes virtualization technology. Because of this, SD WAN can help alleviate much of the network management burden placed on IT resources, so they can focus on other high-priority tasks.
Benefits of SD WAN Explained
SD WAN is the intelligent solution that can help you dynamically route traffic across different network paths based on changes in demand, application needs and network quality. You can set quality of service (QoS) thresholds that use public and private WAN traffic without sacrificing performance or security. With SD WAN, you can:
The 2018 State of Digital in Government Report states that 73% of respondents were being asked to do more with less money. SD WAN helps you get better control over costs and capital expenditures. You can add cost-effective broadband circuits to dedicated WAN circuits where needed and use SD WAN to ensure the right traffic is sent along the wisest routes.
Improve Application Performance
SD WAN allows you to easily take advantage of application routing and path selection to use both public and private IP services together.
Centralized orchestration and automated provisioning allows for simplified configuration. This means you benefit from fewer human errors and simplified deployment. Management complexity is also reduced.
Experts believe that technology will continue to advance faster than organizations can adapt if they continue using primarily traditional network systems without the added benfits of SD WAN.* SD WAN helps you scale network resources on the fly according to your application needs. You can spin up those services on demand, giving you the agility and control you need.
Prioritize “Quality of Service” Traffic
Establish QoS thresholds that use public and private WAN traffic without sacrificing performance or security.
Leverage the Cloud
According to the Global Cloud Computing Market Forecast 2019-2024, the cloud computing market is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2024. It’s clear that cloud-enabled applications will only continue to increase. SD WAN helps you control your traffic and prioritizes key applications, so you can keep cloud applications running smoothly and improve the end-user experience.
Maintain Network Security
SD WAN allows you to operate efficiently without sacrificing performance or security. Plus the added layer of security that SD WAN provides by encrypting and tunneling traffic, even over the public internet, adds an additional layer of security to all of your data.