SD-WAN 101: Back to the Basics

What the heck is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN is the biggest buzzword for IT leaders since the term cloud was coined. At the highest level, SD-WAN or Software-Defined Wide Area Networking is a game-changing technology—enabling and empowering massive shifts for businesses on their digital transformation journeys.

This incredible new technology is crucial to a new network architecture. SD-WAN allows secure connections between network points (headquarters, remote offices, data centers, cloud providers, etc.) that are agnostic to the connectivity types (MPLS, broadband internet, DIA, 4G, 5G) available at each point. In it’s simplest form, SD-WAN allows companies private tunnels or “Virtual Private Networks” between office locations and remote workers to interface with each other securely.

What are the benefits?

OPEX vs. CAPEX

Typically, CIOs view networks as a business asset without a calculable ROI component. But digital transformation initiatives and the transition to the cloud fundamentally changes all balance sheets. Businesses need to be more cognizant today about how they are spending and amortizing IT investments. Few CIOs would even consider spending on the CAPEX-heavy network architectures and IT systems of just a few years ago. That’s because SD-WAN architecture can minimize OPEX and allow increased savings over traditional rigid networks. This can help offset increased OPEX expenses realized through other cloud technologies.

Application Performance and Prioritization.

Two key features of traditional networks built on MPLS technology was performance and prioritization. All of those benefits still exist today. But the shift toward SD-WAN means you just have more flexibility and control than ever before. SD-WAN can flex and burst bandwidth, prioritizing usage based on time of day or availability of broadband. Depending on how SD-WAN is deployed, it can optimize their overall available bandwidth per location—a critical features for “cloud first” businesses. The way SD-WAN tunnels data allows network and IT administrators unprecedented routing and prioritization options for modern enterprise apps that are reliant on network performance.

Agility

It has already been mentioned, but the ability for companies to use SD-WAN with a variety of broadband internet access options at their branch offices decreases reliance on large carriers. Adding couple of broadband internet lines to a new office via SD-WAN makes a lot of sense in a smaller city or rural area where MPLS is cost prohibitive. In addition, SD-WAN allows speed of innovation, change, and disaster recovery / business-continuity options that were not possible before. Essentially, you are no longer beholden to one carrier and have access to a plethora of broadband options on-demand. With SD-WAN, turn up time can be as little as a day where previously the average time was greater than six weeks.

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