SD-WAN: Don’t let the buzz distract you from what you need

Thought Leadership on Innovative Tech presented by Transbeam.

What is SD-WAN?

If one of your business concerns includes network functionality, you’re likely aware of the latest technology shaking up the networking industry: SD-WAN. Short for Software-Defined Wide-Area Network, SD-WAN is creating a buzz as networking’s next change. The technology is making management of WANs easier, and allowing businesses to transform their traditional private networks into more agile and cost-effective connectivity solutions.

A primary characteristic of an SD-WAN is its ability to manage multiple types of connections —from MPLS to broadband to LTE — through a single interface, controlling and shaping the bandwidth at each location centrally. Businesses are opting in to drive better user experiences and business results, as the technology helps to address the connectivity challenges of cloud technology, SaaS and bring-your-own-device.

Just like software-defined networking (SDN), SD-WAN enables cloud and network engineers and administrators to control the network via a centralized console, enabling the underlying infrastructure to be abstracted for applications and network services. Yet, unlike SDN, which is an architecture, SD-WAN is a technology you can purchase.

Improved cost benefits are driving adoption. SD-WAN can be up to two and a half times less expensive than a traditional WAN architecture. Gartner estimates that a 250-branch WAN in a traditional architecture would cost $1.25 million, but only $452,500 with an SD-WAN deployment.

Transforming private networks

Private networks are expensive to run. Up until now, consequently, business with multiple locations and tight budgets — like retailers — were forced to opt for low-end internet connections, such as those provided by cable or fiber-optic connections. SD-WAN comes to the rescue by providing a hybrid network that is invisible to the average user — acting like a single network. It allows existing network solutions to emulate high-end connectivity, accomplishing not only cost savings, but built-in redundancy and private-network options.

For instance, hybrid customization with SD-WAN enables a large company with five large locations and budgets for MPLS, and 20 smaller locations without such budgets to create a single network across the two technologies.

SD-WAN benefits are derived, for the most part, from the ability to replace or augment dedicated WAN circuits with internet-based broadband circuits. Because it can accommodate multiple connections, it has built-in circuit redundancy, and is an ideal solution to eliminate single point of failure.

With built-in private network options, users can prioritize network traffic, e.g., to segregate critical data, creating classes or services over a single connection that was once “once size fits all,” or non-customizable. For example, a doctor’s office can segregate traffic that transmits x-rays, MRIs or medical records. Such transmissions would have been time-consuming or impossible, due to size, over a low-end connection, and terribly expensive over a private network.

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