SD-WAN is a hot topic. But how do you determine if it’s suitable for your organization? A next-gen SD-WAN platform offers a single management interface. From this, paths to applications are prioritized, new sites are provisioned, software and firmware updates are performed, and bandwidth is flexed. This central control enables network managers to optimize costs, agility, and performance. It’s also ideal for supporting remote workers.
Before embarking on a network upgrade project, it's crucial to understand the basics of SD-WAN, as it can significantly enhance your organization's network efficiency and flexibility. A secure SD-WAN ensures data is encrypted while it travels across the network, making it difficult for hackers to intercept sensitive information like credit card numbers or personal health records. It also helps reduce the risk of employees using unsecured Wi-Fi when working remotely, which can be a significant security risk for businesses. SD-WAN also makes it easier to set up local internet breakouts at branch offices, which brings cloud application performance as close to users as possible. That means fewer hops, which boosts performance and lowers costs for bandwidth. It also makes it easy to deploy high-performance, cloud-delivered security to protect against the latest threats, including ransomware and advanced malware. Many SD-WAN as a Service solutions combine security and management capabilities in one platform, which reduces complexity and cost while increasing visibility and agility. That includes unified policy management, WAN optimization, security, and cloud connectivity from a single dashboard. These features can be combined to provide a comprehensive security and performance solution for both on-premises and cloud applications at the edge, in the cloud, or at the data center.
Ease of Deployment
SD-WANs rely on a single central controller that acts as the brains of the network, making the overall architecture much easier to manage. This simplifies network operations, reduces IT staff churn, and enables IT teams to deliver higher-quality service to end-users. The ability to optimize performance applications is also crucial to improving the user experience. Using application visibility and WAN path control, IT teams can ensure critical applications are prioritized and delivered with the best possible performance. This enables organizations to deploy internet breakouts at branches and establish local internet connections that bring data as close to users as possible. This helps lower costs, improve security, and enable secure connectivity to cloud-based applications. Moreover, with an SD-WAN solution that supports virtualized networking functions via an NFV model, capacity can be dynamically scaled up or down in minutes to help a sudden traffic spike – without costly truck rolls and hardware swaps. This scalability and simplified deployment dramatically lowers TCO and enables new revenue streams to open quickly (e.g., for pop-up stores, construction sites, and remote locations).
When selecting an SD-WAN solution, you want one that offers scalability options to keep pace with your company’s bandwidth needs. The ability to quickly scale a network by adding routers or WAN links is vital. This enables you to increase operational bandwidth, improve security with dynamic best-path routing and centralized policy management, and deliver services over multiple connections. The scalability and flexibility of an SD-WAN solution also enhance the user experience. Modern multimedia applications are latency-sensitive and can’t tolerate congestion or packet loss. They require consistent performance to support productivity and customer satisfaction. With a more scalable and flexible SD-WAN, you can deliver better user experiences for both internal and SaaS applications. It’s also essential to select a solution that allows you to manage branch routers from a central controller, which helps simplify IT management and reduce operational costs. This is possible because SD-WAN solutions reshape and control low-level packet control to create a virtualized WAN. This enables you to implement features like application visibility and prioritization, delivering more efficient connectivity, security, and cost control.
The rapid adoption of digital transformation initiatives at business locations has prompted network bandwidth and security requirements that outstrip traditional network architectures. SD-WAN provides a more cost-effective and agile approach to managing these complexities, using programmable network devices and dynamic best-path routing. By enabling WANs to use multiple connection types, including MPLS, direct internet, and broadband business broadband, SD-WAN can increase performance and agility while reducing costs and complexity. The centralized controller of an SD-WAN solution can automatically provision application policies that align with business intent. By measuring the quality of individual channels, it can intelligently offload application traffic to higher-quality channels to improve performance and QoS. For example, suppose one of the direct-to-Internet channels suffers a degradation in its quality that degrades the service level agreement (SLA). In that case, an SD-WAN controller can move traffic to a different internet channel with better performance. This reduces network congestion, ensuring critical applications receive adequate bandwidth to avoid performance issues.
Providing fast, secure, high-performing network connections is essential to enterprise digital transformation initiatives. However, it’s important to recognize that not all SD-WAN solutions are created equal. Introductory or “just good enough” solutions don’t provide the intelligence, reliability, and performance needed to deliver a superior user experience. Traditional WAN routing protocols require tunneling, which adds overhead and reduces bandwidth available for application traffic. These unnecessary costs and congestion can lead to poor application performance, reduced security functionality, and lower overall network agility. A business-driven SD-WAN uses a virtual overlay to control, monitor, and optimize WAN traffic. This allows for a more flexible and efficient WAN connection. For example, a business-driven SD-WAN can detect and prioritize critical applications while leveraging multiple connectivity types such as MPLS, 4G/5G, and broadband internet. It can also offer sub-second failover and reduce the risk of lost productivity when a site or branch office experiences a transport outage. In addition, a business-driven SD-WAN provides visibility into application traffic and performance with a single pane of glass.