What is Software-Defined WAN?
Software-Defined WAN or SD-WAN connects enterprise networks, like branch offices and data centers, over a large geographical area.
Traditional WAN connects locations using dedicated MPLS circuits, but this is expensive and does not work well for cloud-based systems. SD-WAN works to deliver a secure and simplified WAN connection by using a combination of traditional circuits (like MPLS, broadband internet, and 4G/LTE) and software-based technology. It can be used to deliver basic WAN connectivity, or premium business services like VPN, WAN optimization, and application delivery control (ADC).
Companies looking to improve internet connectivity and security for multiple locations can benefit from SD-WAN. By using internet broadband connections and virtualization technology, companies can cut back on expensive dedicated circuits, allowing them to lower costs and improve security at the same time.
Software-Defined WAN Features & Capabilities:
- WAN Optimization
- Multi-Cloud Management
- Centralized Orchestration
- Zero-Touch Provisioning
- Virtual Private Network (VPN)
- WAN Optimization
- Application Delivery Control
Traditional WAN used multiple routers and dedicated circuits to connect separate locations. Every location managed their own router, and information was backhauled through a central data center.
This worked for a time because all information was stored in the data center, but now most applications are hosted in the cloud, and sometimes multiple clouds. Backhauling this information through traditional WAN can cause performance issues and delays often referred to as latency. Latency issues are a main reason many companies are exploring SD-WAN.
Businesses should perform WAN optimization as part of an SD-WAN upgrade, especially if they are dealing with latency issues. Even with traditional WAN, optimization can increase app speeds using several methods:
Deduplication - deleting redundant or repeat information
Caching - storing information for faster access
Compression - shrinking files by removing non-essential information
By optimizing the WAN beforehand, companies can make the most of their SD-WAN upgrade.
Multicloud and Hybrid Cloud Management
Public clouds like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services are popular these days because they are affordable, accessible and infinitely scalable. Multicloud refers to networks using multiple cloud-based products from more than one vendor, as long as they are all either public or private. Hybrid cloud refers to a mix of public and private clouds.
SD-WAN products improve connectivity and boost security in the multicloud by centralizing cloud management, making it easier. The right products can encrypt data across security points while providing firewalls and app-based security. SD-WAN can also use virtual private networks (VPNs to improve security).
Application Delivery Control (ADC)
Traditional WAN networks routed information through data centers using TCP/IP addresses and complex routing protocols. Software-defined WAN is a smarter system with app-level awareness, meaning that it prioritizes bandwidth for critical business applications while minimizing interference from non-essential and time-wasting apps. These networks can also improve app speeds by caching recent info for easy access.
Due to the complexity of setting up an SD-WAN system, prices can only be determined by using the specific specs of each business. To get a clear idea of the price range, users should be able to provide the following information:
Number of locations (domestic and/or international)
Type of circuit (MPLS, broadband internet services, 4G/LTE)
Bandwidth available at each location
Firewalls in use (business’s equipment vs. vendor’s)
Management levels can be important when determining which vendor to use, and can also impact pricing. Unmanaged SD-WAN is purchased directly from a vendor and managed by the customer. Basic and premium SD-WAN systems are managed by vendors, carriers, or managed service providers (MSPs), but the management can add considerable costs ($60,000 or more).