SD-WAN: What is it and what are the benefits to your business?
What are the the advantages of SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Networking) over other networking solutions? The standard WAN technology for businesses with multiple locations has been MPLS or Multiprotocol Label Switching. While MPLS is reliable, fast, and widely accessible, it can also get very expensive as your business, or its serving locations, expands. This is one of the many reasons companies are adopting SD-WAN as their primary connectivity solution.
What is SD-WAN?
The term SD-WAN has been in use for several years now as an entirely new way to look at network architecture, one that focuses on optimal business outcomes and not just how data travels from point A to point B. As the name suggests, software-defined wide-area networks use software to control the connectivity, management and services between data centers and remote branches or cloud instances, while decoupling the control plane from the data plane. SD-WAN is about simplicity, agility and easy optimization, transforming networks — as a Gartner report put it — “from fragile to agile”.
Gartner also summarizes these four features as core SD-WAN characteristics:
1. Support for Multiple Connections
A chief feature is the ability to manage multiple connections from MPLS to various broadband technologies to LTE.
2. Dynamic Policy Routing
SD-WAN connections use policy-based rules to orchestrate the routing of applications. With dynamic policy routing, traffic can be routed across public and private WAN paths as required by different applications — an advantage for load balancing and elimination of downtime.
3. Easy to Manage Interface
By definition, SD-WAN is built over multiple networking technologies and infrastructure, but it shouldn’t require an expert technician for deployment. This is mainly because SD-WAN solutions can be controlled through software rather than hardware, with user-friendly interfaces that make the network easy to configure, manage, and monitor.
4. Compatibility with VPNs and Other Services
Lastly, SD-WAN must be compatible with Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) as well as various third-party services attached to a business network, like web gateways, web application firewalls, cloud services and WAN optimization controllers. As well as streamlining the management of your network, SD-WAN compatibility also enables data collection from these services.
Types of SD-WAN Architecture
SD-WAN’s driving principle is to simplify the way companies add new links to branch offices and remote locations, while better managing the way those links are utilized – for data, voice or video – and potentially save money in the process. Although SD-WAN solutions vary, there are primarily three architecture types:
- On-Prem SD-WAN: Deployed exclusively on-premises this is used by companies that host most — if not all — of their business applications locally and is usually the least expensive architecture as it only establishes connections between remote sites.
- Cloud-Enabled SD-WAN: A cloud-enabled SD-WAN solution uses cloud gateways to communicate with cloud applications.
- Cloud-Enabled plus Backbone: In addition to the benefits of cloud-enabled SD-WAN, this solution capitalizes on a service provider’s nearest Point of Presence or POP, which gives network performance a significant boost.
What are the Benefits for a Business?
1. Streamlined Network Management
By removing traffic management, monitoring, and management plane from the hardware— and reducing the deployment of certain software and hardware components in remote sites — SD-WAN consolidates everything needed into a policy-driven, centralized management interface.
2. Customized for individual IT Infrastructure
SD-WAN, especially cloud-enabled solutions, can be tailored to an organization’s specific IT infrastructure needs. Bandwidth can also be increased or decreased on-demand — making sure mission-critical applications always have access to network resources despite fluctuating requirements.
3. Increased Performance
SD-WAN solutions offer increased network performance and agility. Since SD-WAN can automatically funnel your traffic through the fastest and most reliable connection, common network issues such as jitter and latency can be reduced considerably.
Companies that send WAN traffic through an MPLS tend to use a centralized, corporate data centre for security policies.
A good idea in theory, but a centralized approach to data security is becoming less practical now that companies are moving applications to the cloud. With SD-WAN all endpoints are covered with edge-to-edge encryption and user accounts can be created, edited, and removed at a single management plane — making it easy to control the access privileges of guests, employees, partners, and more.
This has been accelerated with the rapid adoption of cloud-based applications like Office 365 or Amazon Web Services (AWS) applications that require secure remote access. Neil Anderson practice director, network solutions at World Wide Technology, puts it this way: “SD-WAN lets customers set up secure regional zones or whatever the customer needs and lets them securely direct that traffic to where it needs to go based on internal security policies. SD-WAN is about architecting and incorporating security for apps like AWS and Office 365 into your connectivity fabric. It’s a big motivator to move toward SD-WAN.”
5. Network Reliability and Business Continuity
SD-WAN solutions can detect isolated outages, triggering failover to another connection at a moment’s notice so that core business processes continue without interruption.
Regardless of a company’s size, an SD-WAN solution merits serious investigation, especially when adding locations or remote access to a network. The suitability of internet connections varies widely by geography, and mixing connections from multiple providers increases complexity. SD-WAN has dramatically simplified this by decoupling the management from the hardware and offering virtualization and management for multiple connections with a single interface. It is both more cost-effective and more flexible, and superior to traditional WAN and MPLS networking solutions in terms of performance, security, scalability, and ease of management.
Skyway West has been providing WAN solutions to BC and Alberta businesses — both large and small — since 1996. We can provision almost any access technology and have extensive expertise in bonding, failover and private networking. We also have direct, private connections to global data centres like Azure, AWS and Google, and to regional IaaS and Co-location facilities. Our experience and capabilities make us the ideal partner in your adoption of SD-WAN networking. Email or call us at 604-482-1225 to arrange a free consultation.
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