SD-WAN represents a fundamental shift in the way wide area networks (WAN) are implemented. It simplifies the management and operation of a WAN by using software to automate and prioritize traffic routing between WAN sites, and by maintaining operational rules for the entire network from a single, centralized portal. SD-WAN technology does not replace the WAN; it is an overlay that adds a layer of intelligence to an existing network environment.
Why Businesses Are Investing In SD-WAN Technology
SD-WAN technology has been around for several years, but for much of that time it was a solution in search of a problem. It wasn't until a majority of data traffic migrated to the cloud that the benefits of SD-WAN crystalized. It allows companies to free themselves from proprietary hardware and leasing legacy point-to-point data lines. Instead, data is routed securely between all WAN sites using low cost, globally available broadband Internet and cloud services. It was thought the savings businesses would realize by reducing the need for costly dedicated circuits between remote locations would be the catalyst for SD-WAN technology to reach critical mass. It was not.
Primary Benefits Of SD-WAN Technology
As it turns out, cost savings is not the primary reason to invest in SD-WAN technology. The reduced operating expenses it offers are mostly offset by the need to purchase SD-WAN equipment and licenses, which aren't cheap. Rather, the value proposition for SD-WAN is about making the network smarter and optimizing assets already in place by reducing manual change management burdens and regaining any network monitoring capabilities the enterprise lost after migrating some or all of its infrastructure to the cloud.
Administrators are finding many of the tools used for on-premises monitoring and management do not transfer to the cloud; they no longer have complete visibility into key performance indicators. SD-WAN technology is that next-generation toolkit. It provides a centralized portal to control and manage all areas of network performance through the cloud. Administrators have access to analytics and the ability to see trends and the types of services that are consuming bandwidth. For example, a traditional WAN may alert administrators to a latency issue, but provide only limited insight into the specifics of the problem. SD-WAN gives administrators the tools to pinpoint exactly where bottlenecks occur and the ability to make adjustments on-the-fly to improve network performance. Ultimately, SD-WAN provides a level of automation that creates a smarter network.
Further, traditional WAN configuration is distributed; each individual router and server must be updated locally every time there is a change in policy or provisioning – a labor and time consuming process. SD-WAN alleviates the headaches of on-site appliance management with capabilities like zero-touch provisioning and application-based security. Policy changes are deployed to all network assets automatically via software updates while intelligently monitoring performance and traffic loads for maximum agility.
The economics for SD-WAN are there and enterprises need the visibility and tools to understand network performance in the cloud just as much as they did when the network was managed on-premises. And eventually, everyone is going to the cloud.
So for enterprises with multiple distributed locations – whether regional, national or global – the question is not do we need SD-WAN, but rather, what is the best way to implement SD-WAN? If you would like to learn more about the advantages of SD-WAN, how to tell when you're ready for it, and some tips for the best way to go about implementation, we invite you to download our white paper, The Software-Defined-WAN: A Technology Whose Time Has Come.Download the White Paper