The implementation of software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN) has revolutionised the way wide-area networking is done by providing easy deployment, centralised control, lower costs, and enhanced connectivity for branch offices and cloud environments. This technology has been widely adopted recently and has transformed how network professionals manage and secure WAN connections.
What Is SD-WAN?
SD-WAN is a modern WAN architecture that enables enterprises to connect their users to applications securely. With this technology, organisations can achieve improved responsiveness and cost savings in their networking operations. SD-WAN offers a significant advantage over traditional managed MPLS services by enabling faster, more cost-effective application delivery. IT teams also benefit from increased agility, including faster site deployment, the ability to use various data services such as MPLS, DIA, broadband or wireless, instant site reconfiguration, and easier support for hybrid cloud migration.
SD-WAN uses a policy-based virtual overlay to decouple applications from the underlying network services. This overlay continuously monitors the performance of the networks and uses configuration policies to determine the most optimal network for each application.
How Does SD-WAN Work?
Traditional WAN networks connect remote or branch users to applications hosted in data centres using physical routers. These routers have two functionalities, the data plane that holds the information and the control plane that directs the data flow. The routing of data is typically managed by network administrators who write rules and policies for each router in the network. This manual process can be both time-consuming and prone to errors.
On the other hand, SD-WAN separates the control and management functions from the underlying networking hardware, making them available as software that can be easily configured and deployed. With a centralised control plane, network administrators can write new policies and rules and quickly implement and deploy them across the entire network. This streamlined approach makes network management more efficient and reduces potential errors.
Benefits Of SD-WAN
Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), intended as a replacement for conventional MPLS-based WAN, offers businesses five key advantages over MPLS.
· Reduced WAN costs
Provisioning a new MPLS link might take weeks or months as opposed to days with SD-WAN. MPLS bandwidth is also expensive. MPLS is inferior to SD-WAN in terms of operational costs and lost business opportunities.
· Enhanced WAN performance
Even while MPLS is particularly successful at directing traffic between two fixed locations, organisations are finding less use for it as the cloud expands. Using policy-based routing, SD-WAN enables traffic to be routed over the network according to the requirements of the underlying application.
· Improved WAN agility
In terms of agility, SD-WAN offers a significant advantage over MPLS. With SD-WAN, the network layer is abstracted away, making it possible to use a variety of transport mechanisms, whereas, with MPLS, organisations may need to use standalone appliances for WAN optimization and security.
· Simplified WAN management
To manage WAN optimization and security using MPLS, a business may need to deploy several standalone appliances. These tasks can be centrally managed via SD-WAN, enabling businesses to manage expanding networks scalably.
· Increased WAN availability
Finally, SD-WAN provides greater redundancy and availability compared to MPLS. While adding redundant links with MPLS can be costly, SD-WAN can automatically route traffic over a different transport mechanism during an outage, providing improved reliability.
SD-WAN Vs VPN
While VPNs are a cost-effective solution for remote working, they are not as advanced as SD-WAN. VPNs provide secure connections to the organisation’s network, but when it comes to cost, performance, and reliability, they fall short compared to SD-WAN. With a large remote workforce, the complexities and latency of a VPN can outweigh its cost benefits.
On the other hand, SD-WAN offers optimised performance features such as quality of service (QoS) and application routing, making it a better fit for organisations embracing the cloud. Unlike VPNs, which rely on the public internet for speed and bandwidth, SD-WANs offer the added security of service-level agreements (SLAs) for performance. In short, while VPNs are a cost-effective solution for remote workforces, SD-WAN offers better performance, reliability, and scalability.
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SD-WAN Vs MPLS
With traditional WAN approaches such as MPLS, traffic generated from branch locations is routed back to a centralised internet security point in a headquarters data centre, leading to decreased performance and hindering productivity. Although MPLS is considered reliable and secure, it is costly and not equipped to handle the high volumes of WAN traffic caused by SaaS applications and cloud adoption.
In contrast, SD-WAN simplifies network traffic management by allowing multiple connection types, including MPLS, broadband, LTE, and others, and supporting applications hosted on data centres, public and private clouds, and SaaS services. SD-WAN dynamically routes application traffic over the optimal path in real time, eliminating the need for backhauling internet- and cloud-bound traffic directly to the branch.
In conclusion, SD-WAN provides a modern and efficient solution for wide-area networking compared to traditional MPLS and VPNs. Its centralised control plane and policy-based virtual overlay enable businesses to improve network performance, reduce costs, increase agility and simplify management.
SD-WAN can use various connection types and supports multiple applications hosted on different platforms. By dynamically routing application traffic over the optimal path in real time, SD-WAN eliminates the need for backhauling and provides better reliability and scalability. With these benefits, it is no wonder that SD-WAN has rapidly become a popular choice for organisations looking to improve their networking operations.
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