The software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is a technology for configuring and implementing an enterprise WAN — based on software-defined networking (SDN) — to effectively route traffic to remote locations such as branch offices. SD-WAN technology derives significant flexibility and agility benefits from removing the burden of traffic management from physical devices and transferring it to software — the essence of SDN.
Review to the top SD-WAN Benefits
The top SD-WAN benefits are:
- Increased bandwidth at a lower cost
- Centralized management across branch networks
- Full visibility into the network
- Provides enterprises with more options for connection type and vendor selection when building their networks.
In the following sections, we dive into how SD-WAN benefits enterprise networks.
Connecting SD-WAN Technology
SD-WAN technology implementation varies from vendor to vendor, but a primary feature of SD-WAN is that it lets customers create a single network infrastructure that includes many connection types, such as multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), broadband, or wireless LTE. Customers can take advantage of this technology to rely less on expensive, private MPLS connections and use cheaper, public connections for less sensitive data. SD-WAN technology also lets businesses switch transports, the cable or wireless infrastructure connecting the branch office and data centers,and mix and match them based on bandwidth availability, and quickly and easily spin up new connections to remote locations.
SD-WAN benefits businesses by removing expensive routing hardware and instead provisioning connectivity and services from the cloud. It also has the benefit of increased flexibility, allowing businesses to scale connectivity up and down for peak-and-valley demand. SD-WAN technology, therefore, can improve a business’s connectivity between branch locations, the main office, and the cloud. This flexibility also means that businesses can avoid over provisioning, further lowering overall WAN expenses.
Overlaying SD-WAN Technology
Another advantage of SD-WAN is that it abstracts intelligence into an easy-to-implement virtual overlay — again, away from hardware and into software — permitting central network control and traffic management as well as network automation. A blog post from Cato Networks showed how this overlay works, “This overlay monitors the real-time performance characteristics of the underlying networks and selects the optimum network for each application based on configuration policies.” Businesses are then free to not only design and deploy their network from a central location but also implement changes and push updates out quickly to network hardware such as routers and switches.
SD-WAN technology allows businesses to make their network more efficient and dynamic when it comes to consuming network resources. Best suited to businesses that boast multiple locations and heavy traffic, SD-WAN technology does require an initial tech investment — but the long-term savings potential inherent in the investment is high, particularly over time.
Updated April 2019