Exploring SD-WAN – The Advanced Evolution of Business Networks

In today’s world, it’s imperative to have access to information from any device, anytime and anywhere. However, this has led to the growth and complexity of the networks that connect everything, making them increasingly challenging to manage.

LANs vs WANs: A Basic Overview

The two main types of networks are Local Area Networks (LANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs). LANs connect devices within a local office, while WANs connect offices across different locations globally. Without WANs, businesses would be restricted to communicating within their local offices, preventing them from accessing the broader online world, the internet.

The Emergence of SD-WAN: Next-Gen Networking

SD-WAN, the latest evolution of WAN technology, has recently emerged as a game-changing innovation. SD stands for “software-defined,” and while the concept is not new, it has become a focal point, particularly in infrastructure and networking. SD-WAN essentially leverages software to make IT smarter, faster, and more cost-effective. It is a revolutionary way to construct and manage long-distance networks, providing better bandwidth optimization and ensuring the delivery of real-time applications with improved user experiences.

Why, How, and What Makes SD-WAN Better?

Traditional WANs typically have a large number of routers that communicate with each other over extended distances. Within each router is a data plane and a control plane, with the data plane holding the information transmitted or received, and the control plane determining the route the data should take. However, someone needs to program the control plane with rules on how to handle network traffic on the data plane. This is typically done by entering a series of commands into each router’s command line interface, or CLI, by a network administrator. This can be a very manual, time consuming and error prone process. For example, let’s say there is a large business with 100 locations that needs to deploy a new application across all these locations. Let’s assume that each location has one router which needs 20 new commands to implement the correct configurations for the new application. With 100 locations, that’s 2000 (20 x 100) commands and if each command took 40 seconds of time that’s roughly 22 hours of work just to deploy a single application for the business. Also, the CLI can be error prone. Imagine a mistake was made on one of those commands and having to hunt down that error or troubleshoot the application. Staff and IT resources would be impacted and could potentially paralyze the business! To overcome this tedious process, network admins will try to automate this process using programming tools and scripts, however, these tools and procedures add more layers of complexity as well as even more CLI commands with more variables that could compound existing problems.

With SD-WAN, this process is simplified, as the control plane is centralized, where changes can be grouped and managed simultaneously across the entire WAN, from a centralized management portal. Businesses can use specific rules to automate the process and distribute configurations instantly, eliminating the complexity and errors inherent in the old manual method.

The Benefits of SD-WAN

One of the most significant benefits of SD-WAN is the ability to leverage broadband internet connections, reducing the need for expensive private MPLS networks, lowering costs and increasing performance. Moreover, the software-defined capabilities of SD-WAN enable network admins to change characteristics of their entire network from a central management portal, such as:

  • Moving business critical applications to a private MPLS network between locations
  • Block, or lower the priority of social media applications to improve worker productivity

Once these rules or policies are set, they can be automatically distributed and implemented across the organization in seconds.

So, with SD-WAN, configuring new or existing networking infrastructure is much easier than the old way of fragile command lines and manual updates.

What does this all mean about SD-WAN?

Here are three key takeaways for businesses regarding SD-WAN:

Agility: SD-WAN enhances agility by simplifying network policy configuration and management.
Performance: SD-WAN provides higher performance by leveraging multiple paths intelligently, including broadband connections.
Cost: SD-WAN lowers IT operational costs by simplifying WAN infrastructure and providing a more efficient network.

Managed SD-WAN: Taking It to the Next Level

Setting up and managing a WAN has never been easier, provided that it’s software-defined. But taking it a step further, businesses can take advantage of a Managed SD-WAN, where a vendor handles the entire network for them, including deployment, maintenance, updates and technical support. To learn more about this zero-touch network infrastructure get in touch with one of our Managed SD-WAN specialists for more info.

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