SD-WAN is a virtual Wide Area Network (WAN) architecture that is designed to allow businesses to leverage networks to meet the growth of cloud computing and other mobile devices. SD-WAN leverages on IP-based transport networks like MPLS, LTE and broadband internet to securely connect users to applications. It creates a secure wide area network using public IP networks, instead of MPLS-VPN networks to connect users and offices.
The advantages of SD-WAN include:
More agility by simplifying network policy configuration and management
Increase application performance by intelligently leveraging multiple paths including broadband connections
Lower IT costs by consolidating point products into one enterprise-grade solution to significantly reduce capital costs
SD-WAN also improves network user experience so that businesses can get more data reliably over the most optimal network connections. This allows companies to migrate from MPLS, which is typically more costly, to broadband and still maintains the same throughput and save money on their connectivity.
It is also important to note that SD-WAN can be hardware or virtual appliance-based. Virtual appliance based SD-WAN is deployed as a VNF (Virtualized Network Function) in a virtualied environment, including the IaaS public cloud. Some vendors offer both hardware and virtual appliances, which allow the SD-WAN solution to co-exist in both hardware appliance (typically in branches) and software appliance (typically in the cloud).
SD-WAN orchestration enables SD-WAN provisioning, meaning the services can be centrally configured and delivered with the SD-WAN platform by the IT management team.
There are a variety of SD-WAN vendors today. Businesses need to ensure their SD-WAN is able to not only be managed centrally but also be orchestrated globally to cover SaaS applications that are impacted by distance. SD-WAN allows for seamless integration with critical network services. Meaning, businesses will have end-to-end network segmentation and efficient management of local (branch) breakouts. The local breakouts also necessitate the SD-WAN solution to provide NGFW security features to protect the branch network.
Using a centralised control function, SD-WAN directs traffic across the WAN securely and intelligently. When there is traffic, the SD-WAN appliance uses a set of defined SLAs to prioritise and pick the best available network link.
Also, enterprises with presence across the globe can save time and simplify deployment at branch locations. This is done by replicating proven configurations and business policies, which reduces deployment time to just days instead of months.
While larger enterprise networks can benefit most from SD-WAN, SMEs are also adopting SD-WAN solutions to simplify operations but face challenges and limitations when deploying WAN networks.
An SD-WAN appliance enables centralised management of SD-WAN and addresses the unique needs of smaller businesses. The SD-WAN appliance connects to networks services, normally MPLS, broadband or LTE services, and is configured to choose the best path to meet the business application SLA needs. These SLAs parameters may include packet loss, latency, or jitter. SMEs with limited IT staff and resources can enjoy an enterprise-class network by adopting an SD-WAN solution.
Depending on the vendor, the SD-WAN appliance may also come with network security that consolidates advanced security and networking capabilities to protect against cyber-attacks. The firewalls on the appliance are purpose-built with security processors (SPUs) and deliver threat protection as well.