What is SD-WAN and Why is it So Important?

What is SD-WAN and Why is it So Important?

What is SD-WAN?

Otherwise known as Software-Defined Wide Area Networking, SD-WAN is a kind of virtual WAN architecture, designed to help companies become more flexible and scalable.

With SD-WAN, companies can leverage a variety of underlying transportation services to connect users to applications, and vice-versa – crucial in today’s software-focused landscape. Currently, the market for SDWAN is rapidly approaching a value of around $14.95 billion by 2028, with a CAGR of 27.8%. Experts believe demand for SD-WAN will continue to accelerate in the age of cloud.

By giving companies more freedom to control their connection strategies, powering faster cloud-based connections, and allowing for infinity scalability, SD-WAN opens the door to a new age of business networking. Let’s take a closer look at what SDWAN is, and how it works.

What is SD-WAN? Introducing SD-WAN Technology

SD-WAN, or the “Software-Defined Wide Are Network” is a next-generation alternative to old-fashioned WAN architecture. A classic Wide Are Network (WAN), is the connection between various local area networks. Conventionally, WAN technology helped to link various ecosystems throughout a business, but they weren’t designed for the cloud ecosystem.

With older Wide Area Networks, traffic needs to be backhauled from various environments into a central data hub, where it can be inspected, and managed. This leads to a significant delay in traffic management, as well as significant on-premises management and maintenance costs.

Traditional WAN solutions had their benefits, such as advanced security, but they also increased the complexity associated with the configuration and infrastructure management of networks. Old-fashioned WANs also can’t offer the various advanced features today’s companies are looking for with SD-WAN, like firewalls, automation, and VPN connectivity.

SD-WAN, on the other hand, was designed specifically to support an application, software, and cloud-focused ecosystem. With SD-WAN, companies can programmatically configure and manage connections between a variety of networks, using a multitude of transport services and policies.

According to Gartner, SD-WAN is the replacement for the traditional WAN environment, capable of offering essential dynamic control and path selection via a range of connections.

How Does SD-WAN Work? The Basics

In SD-WAN, software is the primary basis for your entire connectivity environment. Rather than a physical data hub, you use a “virtual network” to combine traditional WAN technologies, like LTE, MPLS, and broadband connections, with ecosystems in the cloud.

With SD-WAN, companies get a central control environment where they can create policies to securely direct traffic through the wide area network, and to various IaaS and SaaS providers. The result is a combination of greater control, and better user-experience, enhancing business productivity and minimizing IT costs.

SD-WAN empowers modern cloud and software-first enterprises to build superior application quality of experience for users. By identifying applications, SD-WAN services can actually make your routing more intelligent. You can set policies to ensure each set of applications receives the right security enforcement and prioritization in your network.

While the exact features of your SD-WAN experience may vary depending on the kind of service you access, the primary components of an SD-WAN ecosystem often include:

  • Policy-based management: With SD-WAN, companies can determine Quality of Service guidelines and use dynamic path selection to steer traffic. Dynamic path selection basically means you can route traffic through different transport options based on the importance of the application, and the network conditions. SD-WAN can identify packets by destination, user, application, and source, and assign them to the correct paths automatically.
  • Centralized control: An SD-WAN environment provides a centralized environment for control residing often in the public cloud, through a SaaS application. The control is decoupled from the hardware environment, so you can create more specific rules about network management and routing based on your distinct needs. You can even use end-to-end micro-segmentation to apply unique rules for quality of service and security.
  • Redundancy: A significant defining factor of SD-WAN is the peace of mind you get from setting up redundancy solutions. For instance, of a single path for an application connection fails, you can set up a range of failover solutions to maintain quality of experience. This helps to prevent unwanted downtime and maintain SLAs. There are even intelligent SD-WAN systems which can learn from exposure to the network over time.
  • Multiple transport and connection options: An SD-WAN gateway allows companies to build hybrid WAN environments, using a multitude of transport layers. You can access everything from LTE and broadband internet to MPLS in the same place. You can even establish VPN connections and other security components within your WAN connections.

As SD-WAN demand continues to increase, new variations of the solution are also beginning to emerge on the market. For instance, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) introduced by Gartner connects SD-WAN technology with network security point solutions like SWG and CASB to create a unified service based in the cloud.

What are the Benefits of SDWAN?

As a powerful tool for network management in today’s cloud-central ecosystem, SD-WAN and solutions like SASE are rapidly gaining more attention among business leaders. With SDWAN, companies can unlock stronger application experiences for users, and minimize disruption for teams. Some of the most significant benefits of SD-WAN include:

  • Cost savings: Most traditional WAN networks relied on expensive hardware and maintenance contracts. SD-WAN, powered in the cloud, can deliver a more cost-effective solution or growth, without the same level of CAPEX investment.
  • Consistency: Access to complete control over network policies, redundancies and failovers allows business leaders and IT teams to deliver a more consistent experience to application users. Brands can even dynamically route application traffic through the best avenue in any situation as network conditions change.
  • Enhanced security: End-to-end segmentation of applications and policy control give companies extra power to protect their users in an SD-WAN environment. There’s even the option to implement VPN connections, or leverage security enhancements through SASE.
  • Improved management: An SD-WAN environment delivers a single and centralized environment for cloud-based innovation in any business. Companies can unlock the benefits of zero-touch provisioning and centralized control for all network components. This allows for a more flexible and reliable ecosystem in today’s software-driven landscape.
  • Value for the cloud: The cloud and SD-WAN are perfectly suited for eachother. SD-WAN solutions allow companies to extend the wide area network to a number of edge and cloud environments, to build a more flexible and agile business landscape. This is becoming particularly crucial in today’s world of hybrid work.

Do you need SD-WAN?

As one of the fastest-growing facets of networking technology in the world today, SD-WAN offers sensational opportunities to businesses in search of agility and growth. With new solutions like SASE emerging in the market all the time, SD-WAN is likely to continue capturing the attention of business leaders and IT teams in the years ahead.

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