How does SD-WAN work? Answering your SD-WAN Questions

How does SD-WAN work? Answering your SD-WAN Questions

SD-WAN is a pretty big deal these days. Promising a convenient way to modernize your business network infrastructure, an SD-WAN ecosystem could be the key to making your team more efficient, productive, and cost-effective. However, before you can really leverage the benefits of SD-WAN for your organization, you need at least a basic knowledge of how it works.

SD-WAN, or Software-Defined Wide Area Networking, is a form of WAN connectivity which involves using software to control the connectivity, and services running between remote branches, cloud instances, and data centers.

Let’s take a closer look at how SD-WAN works, and what makes it so different from the standard Wide Area Networking experience.

What is SD-WAN? An Introduction

SD-WAN stands for “Software-Defined Wide Area Networking”, an updated form of network infrastructure estimated to reach a value of around $8.4 billion by 2025. Introduced as a solution for the age of software-focused and cloud-ready businesses, SD-WAN solutions decouple the control plane from your network from the data plane, and give companies more freedom.

An SD-WAN deployment can include existing routers and switches in a network, as well as virtualized customer premises equipment (vCPE) which are all operated by the same centralized control system. One of the chief benefits of SD-WAN is the central control unit, where companies can manage multiple connections from LTE to broadband and LTE.

As mentioned above, SD-WAN technology builds on the more traditional “WAN” architecture (Wide Area Network), which allowed for connections between LANs (Local Area Networks). With a classic WAN, all traffic needed to be backhauled from branch offices into a central data center, where it could then be inspected, secured, and distributed. This complex process often led to lost productivity and lag, prompting network providers to look for something more versatile.

According to Gartner, SD-WAN is one of the key technologies required for enterprises to transform their networks from “fragile to agile” in the age of cloud. With this solution, companies have more control over how their network links are utilized, and how data moves through the system.

As a result, by 2023, Gartner believes 90% of WAN edge infrastructure initiatives will be based on SD-WAAN or vCPE appliances.

How Does SD-WAN Work? The Basics of SD-WAN

SD-WAN eliminates the need for back-hauling traffic to a central location with an old-fashioned WAN, and provides an environment for business leaders to manage multiple connection types. Unlike traditional router-focused WAN architecture, SD-WAN models are designed to fully support applications hosted in public or private clouds, on-premises data centers, and even SaaS services.

An SD-WAN supports cloud-first and agile enterprises in delivering a superior application “Quality of Experience” for users, with features like intelligent application-aware routing. Each class of applications in your ecosystem can be given the right security and QoS policy enforcement based on your business needs.

While a basic SD-WAN solution steers traffic in your ecosystem according to pre-programmed templates, more advanced business-focused SD-WANs allow for optimal application performance under any changes to the network conditions, through a process of consistent monitoring and self-learning. These SD-WAN tools can respond automatically to changes in your network state, ensuring team members can consistently remain connected to the applications they need.

If an SD-WAN solution recognizes an issue with network congestion or problems with a specific route for traffic, it can simply adapt to use a different transportation method, allowing for better business continuity, and a more consistent quality of experience.

SD-WAN technology solves a host of business problems for companies moving into the flexible cloud environment. Just some of the capabilities of SD-WAN services include:

  • Central control: Centralized control via a SaaS application on the cloud allows you to adapt the distribution of resources for your business whenever you choose, without having to manage individual gateways manually.
  • Multiple connection options: Unlike standard WAN environments, SD-WAN solutions allow businesses to leverage a range of connection transport options like LTE, MPLS, and broadband. This gives companies more versatility, and ensured reliability.
  • Dynamic path selection: SD-WAN platforms can include dynamic path selection for selectively routing traffic through an ecosystem based on changes in network conditions. Or you can simply set up policies for your SD-WAN to follow.

Why Businesses Need SD-WAN

Ultimately, traditional WAN solutions were never intended for the age of cloud connectivity, and they’re no longer suitable in a world rapidly moving to the cloud. To thrive in a more agile environment, companies need to be able to leverage more flexibility in their connections through the use of software-defined applications.

Still have questions about SD-WAN? The following FAQ may help.

Does SD-WAN help network security?
SD-WAN can boost security by allowing users to set up secure regional zones and safely route traffic based on internal policies. SD-WAN allows companies to architect and incorporate extra levels of security into your connectivity fabric. You can even partition mission critical assets and traffic to protect against vulnerabilities in other parts of the enterprise.

Is SASE the same as SD-WAN?
SASE takes SD-WAN functionality to the next level by combining the software-defined networking platform with applications and tools for security and better network management. Without SASE, companies would need to access and implement security tools and other applications for their SD-WAN initiative separately.

What does SD-WAN mean for MPLS?
Most network leaders believe MPLS will be around for a long time, and that SD-WAN won’t reduce the need for this technology. In fact, MPLS is one of the transportation options companies can leverage with SD-WAN. Notably, Gartner says SD-WAN can allow some companies to augment or replace expensive MPLS connections with internet-based VPNs from various different providers.

How does SD-WAN involve cloud environments?
Companies are increasingly turning to SD-WAN solutions to connect their data centers with cloud resources. Many SD-WAN providers are already teaming up with cloud providers to help support cloud-based traffic optimization going forward.

Is SD-Branch the same as SD-WAN?
SD-Branch is an offshoot of software-based technology for the network world, intended as the next evolution of branch technology. SD-Branch platforms are basically hardware solutions which support SD-WAN routing, LAN/Wi-Fi functions, and integrated security applications that can all be managed from a central environment.

Still want to learn more about SD-WAN? Contact our team today.

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