SD-WAN Technology Overview
First, it was computing power. Then software applications and storage helped enterprises realize the value of the cloud as an integral part of their digital infrastructure. Now, the move is on for the realization of virtual networks through Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). This brief SD-WAN tutorial will provide you with necessary information to determine if the rapidly developing technology is right for your needs.
Software Defined Networking (SDN) has been around for years, but now there is a push toward implementing Software Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN). SD-WAN technology involves using software to manage network traffic more efficiently across vast geographic distances. Routing data across a variety of network connections in a transparent overlay control scheme, SD-WAN software directs data to the most efficient, logical, and cost-effective network path. This path is chosen based on priorities and application performance requirements, which can change in a matter of milliseconds.
SD-WAN technology is evolving rapidly, and currently the marketplace contains many variations of SD-WAN solutions. No question, SD-WAN networks are the future of data networking for business and should be considered part of any network upgrade project.
Top SD-WAN Features
Developers of SD-WAN solutions are continually adding features to improve SD-WAN service and performance, while seeking competitive advantage in the marketplace. Even though absolute standards do not exist for what defines SD-WAN, buyers should expect some commonly accepted SD-WAN features.
• GUI Interface
Compared to the command-line processes IT professionals had to endure configuring routers and related network hardware, the most attractive feature of many SD-WAN solutions are the intuitive interfaces. IT staff can access and perform all necessary set-up and monitoring tasks from a single console or dashboard.
• Advanced Security
The ability to assign each authorized device a path on the network, a feature known as segmentation. This allows enterprises to set policies that alert IT staff when unauthorized attempts to access data occur. Digital security companies and SD-WAN vendors work closely together to continue to solidify data security.
• Network Flexibility
The real power of SD-WAN technology lies in its ability to support multiple connection types in a way that is seamless to the user, but based on policies set in the control software. Connections such as MPLS, dedicated Internet, broadband, wireless LTE can all be utilized to transport data based on the most efficient network path for the application. SD-WAN solutions can also support traditional infrastructure features such as firewall, web gateways and VPN sessions.
• Business Continuity
Like its physical counterparts, an SD-WAN service must include some way to monitor Quality of Service (QoS) and contain resiliency features to detect outages and automatically reroute data as necessary. Monitoring becomes even more critical as a multitude of network routes, some of them highly unpredictable, move data from place to place. Outages with traditional data networks can be devastating due to single points of failure. SD-WAN technology minimizes or eliminates those impacts through multi-path network connectivity and fail-over.
Types of SD-WAN Services
SD-WAN architectures have risen to the top in terms of capabilities, flexibility, and performance. Depending on the type of business and network applications used, one of these SD-WAN configurations will best suit your needs.
This configuration consists of a physical device programmed with SD-WAN software that connects to the cloud via a virtual gateway. A cloud-based SD-WAN offers companies that rely heavily on cloud applications the best performance and reliability. This is accomplished by networking directly with major cloud providers such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and others.
• Cloud & Network Backbone
Similar to the cloud-based SD-WAN architecture, in this hybrid environment the SD-WAN connects to the provider’s point of presence (POP). This is done by utilizing a private network to transport the data vs public Internet backbones. Low-latency applications such as desktop virtualization, voice and video can benefit from this network architecture and guaranteed performance. Due to the limited distances between the location and SD-WAN provider POP, jitter and latency issues are significantly reduced.
The simplest type of SD-WAN implementation is the on-premise version. The SD-WAN architecture consists of an appliance that performs real-time traffic management at each site on a WAN. The software-enhanced routers connect each network site directly, but do not connect to the cloud. This type of configuration works well for companies that do not use cloud applications extensively. Usually, an MPLS network handles the real-time apps and the SD-WAN controls everything else traveling from site to site on the public internet.
SD-WAN Solutions – Are They Worth It?
Many organizations struggle with the prospect of redoing networks. This process represents substantial investments in terms of money, resources, and time. Fortunately, the solutions offered by most SD-WAN providers allow enterprises to keep their existing networks by plugging in new functionality in the form of SD-WAN capabilities. The possibilities of realizing SD-WAN benefits in saving money and obtaining competitive advantages are helping many companies to decide to make the switch. Some of the possible benefits of incorporating SD-WAN technology into your network infrastructure include:
SD-WAN technology simplifies many labor-intensive tasks such as configuring, deploying and maintaining networks. By automating many repetitive tasks, IT staff members have an opportunity to increase their value. Learning the actual needs of the organization and spending time implementing network policies and protocols is the result of this efficiency.
SD-WAN’s ability to direct traffic automatically away from full or faulty data routes generally improves application performance. By routing data based on type, priority, and available resources, latency is reduced and overall speed is improved. This data routing also ensures high network availability due to automatic fail-over capabilities.
By eliminating or reducing the amount of bandwidth required from leased MPLS circuits or other private data networks, SD-WAN technology can save organizations significant amounts of money. A WAN controlled by software has the ability to scale bandwidth up and down depending on demand. The software controller also decides in real time when to use certain connection types. Public Internet connections for low-priority tasks and private data network connections for applications that require low latency and performance.
Moving Forward With SD-WAN Provider
SD-WAN solutions are now in the mainstream and represent a viable and attractive form of data network technology. Navigating the maze of options to integrate SD-WAN with what your organization is currently using, while realizing the most benefits, can be a challenging undertaking. Collaborating with the right SD-WAN provider to lead you step-by-step through the entire process can help you reduce your implementation time and avoid costly mistakes. Explore this exciting new networking opportunity for your business and begin realizing the benefits of SD-WAN technology. Hopefully this SD-WAN tutorial provides a good understanding of those key points.