Considered the most disruptive network technology in the market today, SD-WAN is increasingly the network infrastructure of choice for small businesses to large organisations. Here’s why.
In recent years, we’ve seen significant developments in WAN technology, and none more impactful than software-defined WAN, or SD-WAN.
Here we look at what SD-WAN really means for businesses and the real-world, practical benefits – from faster and more stable, flexible and scalable connectivity, to easier administration, tighter security and more.
What is SD-WAN?
As the name suggests, SD-WAN uses software to control network connectivity and traffic, including between users, data centres, branch offices and cloud services.
According to research firm Gartner, SD-WAN has four key characteristics:
- Support for multiple connectivity options, such as broadband internet, MPLS, 4G and 5G
- Dynamic path selection across connectivity options, where the software intelligently determines the best performing path for each application to optimise performance and load sharing
- Network management via a simple interface, with zero-touch provisioning at branch level
- Support for secure VPNs and third-party services, such as firewalls, internet gateways etc.
These features can help businesses of all sizes overcome a range of issues that are common to traditional ‘hub and spoke’ WAN infrastructures.
Real-World Benefits for Businesses
As with any technology, the value of SD-WAN is all about the business outcomes that it enables.
Below, we look at a range of real and practical ways that SD-WAN is used to improve how our customers do business day-to-day and scale more easily and efficiently in the longer-term.
Whereas traditional WAN architectures rigidly route all applications through MPLS, SD-WAN dynamically routes network traffic through to the ideal WAN path to maximise performance.
At the network level, this optimises overall speed in real-time, such as decreasing traffic over broadband in busier peak periods and diverting through 4G. At the application level, bespoke parameters can be set for critical applications, such as a CRM or VOIP, to ensure they are allocated a certain level of bandwidth and performance at all times in preference to other, less critical applications.
In the real-world, this provides business with benefits such as:
- More responsive email, without delays due to network latency
- Faster cloud services, for critical cloud-based applications
- More stable VOIP, without dropouts in voice quality
- Clearer video calls, without fluctuations in video quality.
As a result of these benefits, SD-WAN can have a significant impact on business productivity and the bottom line.
By separating networking hardware from its control mechanism, SD-WAN gives greater flexibility to switch carriers across each connectivity type to help keep your bandwidth mix cost-effective. Some costs can also be shifted from CapEx to OpEx.
Additionally, the relative ease of administration and deployment provide ongoing cost efficiencies, particularly as a business scales geographically.
Traditional WAN technology is not well-suited to managing multiple network connectivity options, meaning the failover network (e.g. 4G) generally sits dormant and takes too long to activate in the event of an outage of the primary connection. This causes VOIP calls and other network-sensitive applications to dropout.
SD-WAN on the other hand, with ‘self-healing’ capabilities, will automatically reroute traffic to the next best available connection(s) in the event that the primary connectivity goes down, meaning a seamless transition and rerouting of network traffic without business interruption.
Administration & Deployment
SD-WAN offers IT professionals visibility on network performance – i.e. precisely how bandwidth is being used so informed decisions can be made – and the ability to remotely manage the entire WAN through a simple, single interface. This centralises remote control of policies around network and application performance.
SD-WAN also enables faster deployments and scalability with zero-touch provisioning capabilities. Rather than taking weeks or even months, business-wide network changes and upgrades can be done remotely in minutes, and without the need for on-site technicians to perform time-consuming configurations at each branch office location.
Unlike the traditional WAN ‘castle and moat’ approach with a single ‘choke point’, SD-WAN provides integrated security at the WAN ‘edge’ or branch level. Security is also more easily managed remotely through the single network administration interface.
This has benefits for businesses with multiple branch locations, or that use cloud-based services, or with staff who work remotely, as all network traffic passes through a unified secure gateway regardless of user location.
Can SD-WAN Benefit Your Business?
We partner solely with Gartner magic quadrant SD-WAN solutions to deliver industry-leading technology for our customers.
If you’d like a clear assessment of how SD-WAN might be of benefit to your business, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation with our network experts.