What is SD-WAN, and how can it help businesses thrive?
To stay competitive in today’s fast-paced digital landscape, organizations must evolve and adapt their internal networks to support the latest and greatest business software and technology—enter SD-WAN.
SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) utilizes software to simplify the process of delivering the WAN, ultimately making business procedures quicker, more cost-effective, and more reliable. In order to understand why SD-WAN is getting so popular, let’s take a step back and look at the fundamental network problems it addresses and resolves.
SD-WAN: The Origin
To deliver the services and applications necessary to perform key-business functions, multi-location companies utilize wide area networks (WANs) to connect remote offices to both each other and centralized data centers. However, when networks are extended over long distances, operational challenges like jitter, packet loss, network congestion, and outages can occur. To address these issues, IT professionals have been creating and experimenting with redundant telecom links since the 1970s.
Fast forward to the early 2000s, and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) became a highly utilized data-carrying technique for high-performance telecommunications networks. However, the reality is that MPLS infrastructure is both expensive and slow to deploy, therefore becoming restrictive to an impatient society focused on efficiency and rapid expansion. Thus, come 2013 the concept of a “Hybrid WAN” was introduced to the market. By 2014 networking publications started utilizing the term SD-WAN, software-defined wide area network, to describe this new networking trend.
With the promise of significant cost and time savings, the enterprise client became the first to employ SD-WAN, ultimately causing the market to perceive the technology as an enterprise solution. However, SD-WAN also allows small and medium sized businesses to adopt corporate-like infrastructure enabling them to experience enterprise-grade benefits. Therefore, SD-WAN has become a dynamic solution for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
SD-WAN, An Idea Whose Time Has Come
Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is the application of software-based network technologies to WAN connections to more effectively route all network traffic between headquarters or data centers, remote and branch offices, and the cloud.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The promise of SD-WAN goes far beyond simply connecting multiple office locations.
- Is less expensive than MPLS driving down operational and capital expenditures by up to 50%.
- Is software-based and delivered via the cloud allowing for quick enablement of new branches or remote offices.
- Assures optimal application performance and dynamic multi-path optimization and routing.
- Gives companies the agility to implement changes quickly to accommodate evolving customer and market trends.
- Reduces security threats through comprehensive encryption and micro-segmentation, ultimately securing the flow of data.
- Has a centralized orchestrator that monitors all network activity, alerting branches of problems, and enabling the remote remediation of issues.
- Delivers real-time analytics and reporting across the entire network.
- …and More
If all of that seems irrelevant to your business, consider that SD-WAN is advantageous if…
Your Business Relies Heavily on the Internet
How much money would it cost you if your business was down a couple hours? Now, if the answer is not much, then a SD-WAN solution might not be all that profitable for your business. However, if after 15-minutes of downtime your employees would be driving to the nearest Starbucks so they can get back online and actually do their jobs, SD-WAN is definitely worth considering.
SD-WAN has the ability to combine multiple Internet connections together to act as one. This means that if one connection fails, SD-WAN can issue automatic failover to your backup connection. That’s right, no need to call up your IT provider, wait for a response, and then get manually switched over to the backup Internet connection. It’s Internet insurance in real time.
Your Business Uses Cloud Applications like Salesforce, Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps, Etc.
In the last couple of years, we’ve seen an upstream of organizations leveraging software as a service (SaaS) applications and cloud services from providers such as Google, AWS, and Microsoft Azure. This has caused data traffic patterns to move to the cloud.
Because traditional WAN architectures are not built to support this migration, cloud applications repeatedly encounter extra hops, ultimately wasting bandwidth, increasing costs, and generating higher packet loss and latency.
SD-WAN, on the other-hand, defines policies based on business intent and steers traffic intelligently and securely forgoing additional hops. For example, if the app is hosted somewhere in the cloud, then traffic will be automatically directed to it without backhauling to a POP or HQ data center. By adapting this more agile network infrastructure, businesses will experience overall higher application performance.
Your Business Uses Hosted Voice (VoIP)
Imagine the following scenario—you have a very important conference call scheduled for 1:00 p.m. this afternoon. You’ve reviewed all the paperwork, made sure everything is in order, and are ready to go. The call starts off well. Then suddenly, unbeknownst to you, someone in your office starts watching a 4k YouTube video, and your call starts to suffer the consequences. The other person on the call becomes gargled. You can’t understand what is being said. You keep saying, “What” and “Can you repeat that? Sorry. You’re breaking up.” Not good.
SD-WAN allows for easy prioritization of traffic. This means that conference calling can always be prioritized over YouTube traffic. This ensures business critical applications are never compromised due to off-task coworkers.
SD-WAN — It’s Time to Act
Today, having a static and inflexible network architecture is no longer plausible for companies that depend on Internet-based applications. From the associated cost of digital downtime, to compromised application and voice performance, ensuring your company’s internal network operations are safeguarded to function seamlessly is essential for success.