In today’s business climate, a company’s network is the heart and soul of its operations. As organizations grow and develop over time, their technology needs will also evolve. Given the rapid pace of change and the need for evolution, it’s no surprise that IT leaders are finding new ways to get the computing resources they require.
In many cases, traditional wide-area networking practices have been making way for software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN). Companies that would have previously turned to private network connections and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) networking are discovering that SD-WAN can save them money while also bringing their capabilities to a new level.
What are the advantages of SD-WAN?
The first thing to understand about SD-WAN is that it is both an alternative way to get the same type of WAN performance you’re accustomed to and a method of increasing your company’s capabilities. The following are some of the more notable benefits companies have realized as they have started adding SD-WAN resources.
Save money while still increasing bandwidth.
With IT budgets always needing to stretch further, it’s natural for the first question about this new technology to be, “How can SD-WAN save me money?” Fortunately, the answer is simple.
A managed SD-WAN network can aggregate internet connections of all kinds, from private layer 2 to public internet and even wireless and satellite bandwidth. By using VPN tunnels, firewalls, and encryption, you can assemble these lower-cost connections to get the type of security and reliability previously only available with private networking.
Companies don’t have to commit fully to SD-WAN to start getting these advantages. By embracing a hybrid WAN model, organizations can bring together locations on SD-WAN and those still using traditional MPLS networking into one unified environment.
Deploy new locations or services quickly and easily.
Expansion tends to come with growing pains for companies exclusively using a traditional MPLS network. The equipment needed to add a new data center or office location is expensive and can be difficult to source in a timely manner, introducing capital expenditures and delays into a process that needs to be smooth and fast.
Working with the circuits for a traditional MPLS system, it can take between one and four months to set up a new location. By dramatically cutting into this time, SD-WAN allows organizations to pursue more aggressive expansion plans and helps new companies get up to speed quickly with their competitors.
Adding a new cloud service to the network is similarly fast and easy on SD-WAN. Considering that businesses are turning to Software-as-a-Service tools for their most mission-critical capabilities today, accelerating this process can have an immediate positive effect.
Manage everything centrally and simply.
The “single pane of glass” management of an entire SD-WAN network allows your IT team a greater degree of control over your network, as well as more visibility than ever before. It also requires a smaller group of stakeholders to control the network than would be needed for a traditional WAN.
With this visibility, personnel working with the centralized control console can take a close look at any:
- Software application
- Network connection
- Physical location
- Individual user’s activity
This view allows them to detect the causes of problems and opportunities for improvement, no matter how granular those root issues are. They also have access to remote diagnostic tools, allowing them to:
- Flush a system
- Reset or refresh any router
- Perform ping tests
Stakeholders don’t even have to rely on their own hands-on efforts to achieve this level of control. With customizable automatic alerts, they can receive immediate notifications when a network event occurs, such as a VPN tunnel failing or an edge device going offline. This helps reduce response time drastically.
Maximize the performance of mission-critical applications.
The centralized console allows your IT personnel to do more than simply observe the network. Through intelligent link steering and priority rules, an SD-WAN network delivers a level of control that goes beyond a simple MPLS deployment, letting users match connections and applications for performance benefits. These include:
- The ability to choose applications, individually or in groups, to receive network priority — communication tools such as VoIP and videoconferencing are common selections
- Multipath support, allowing selected applications to run over a single network path or many, boosting stability and helping with failover
- Rule setting that allows stakeholders to create exceptions based on individual apps or business locations, and to also set global blanket policies that affect the entire corporate network
How does SD-WAN compare to traditional WAN?
Organizations pondering SD-WAN as an alternative to traditional WAN can consider its capabilities side by side with the conventional model:
- SD-WAN’s meshed architecture can deliver less congested connection to SaaS applications
- It is faster and less costly to add a new application or location to an SD-WAN network
- Bandwidth-consuming solutions, such as VoIP and video, can see reduced jitter and latency
- The centralized cloud layer delivers single-location control of the whole network
Does SD-WAN replace MPLS?
In most cases, SD-WAN will not be an immediate replacement for MPLS networks. Rather, companies add SD-WAN capacity, potentially first as supplemental connectivity for smaller branch locations.
This hybrid WAN option can remain in place as the overall balance of circuits within the company changes. After contracts with traditional network partners expire, businesses can increase their SD-WAN investments, gradually moving toward a more heavily cloud-based model.
What do you need to start SD-WAN deployment?
If you’re setting up network connections at a new brand location or getting ready to overhaul networking equipment at an existing office, you can commit to SD-WAN at that location, selecting primary and secondary devices from the Edge range that will provide a level of throughput that fits your needs.