Introducing SD-WAN, a lower-cost solution that is proving to work faster and smarter for many organisations. 

Traditionally, a Wide Area Network, or WAN for short, is a network that exists across a large-scale geographical area and works through dedicated hardware within an Internet Service Provider’s network. The WAN allows users to connect from anywhere and any device, across multiple locations.

Prior to SD-WAN, MPLS has been the widely used form of WAN for enterprise, that provides a dedicated private network between an organisation’s various sites.

But the world of business is changing as more users expect seamless access to content that could exist across multiple clouds and multiple sites, even spanning different countries. SD-WAN has evolved to meet these changes. In its simplest form, SD-WAN has been set up to better control wide area networks. A lower-cost solution, SD-WAN is proving to work faster and also smarter for many organisations.

How does SD-WAN work?

Deciding whether to adopt SD-WAN begins by first understanding how it works. The WAN allows users to connect from anywhere and any device, across multiple locations. Prior to this solution, MPLS has been the widely used form of WAN for enterprise, that provides a dedicated private network between an organisation’s various sites. 

A traditional WAN works through a mass of interconnected routers across longer distances. Within this exists the Data Plane, which carries the information that needs to be delivered and a Control Plane, which determines where the data will travel. The Control Plane needs to be set up with a collection of rules on how this data will travel. This is both complex and time consuming to set up. Configuring these rules for each router is achieved through the Command Line Interface (CLI), which is all achieved manually. Therefore, if any mistake is made, it can critically affect a business.  

This is one of the primary reasons why SD-WAN has been created, to simplify this process. Software-defined, the WAN is managed from a central web-based portal where all the rules can be centralised on the Control Plane and configured into relevant groups. These rules, known as Business Defined Rules, can then be easily defined across the entire WAN and allows for plug and play provisioning of new sites. This then opens up accessibility to the public cloud and broadband, no longer needing to rely solely on the MPLS.

As a result, SD-WAN makes it far simpler, cost effective and reliable for an organisation to manage its network.

Exploring the Benefits

As briefly discussed, SD-WAN is a ‘software-defined’ network that lowers the cost for an organisation while increasing performance. SD-WAN simplifies the flow of information within a network by creating business defined rules, all from a central software portal. This solution benefits an organisation by removing expensive agreements with large Telcos and the time time spent configuring, instead creating connectivity through the cloud which is controlled with software.

By operating via automatic software capabilities (instead of manual human configuration), the WAN is able to work across standard broadband connections rather than solely through expensive, private networks. This leverages multiple paths, thereby increasing performance and overall accessibility. As SD-WAN allows an organisation to mix and match between MPLS, Internet Broadband such as NBN and wireless LTE, there exists greater flexibility across the network. For example, less sensitive data can run through public connections while critical information is left to run via an MPLS.

This control over the flow of traffic in a network also benefits security capabilities. SD-WAN ensures security through end-to-end encryption of data. Without SD-WAN, connecting a user securely to a public cloud is expensive and complex. Traditionally this was achieved through expensive MPLS links. With SD-WAN, traffic can be segmented and travel through virtual private clouds (VPCs) and virtual networks (VNETs). The control given to SD-WAN to isolate how specific information travels ensures improved security.

The Future of SD-WAN

Any organisation operating on the cloud, with multiple locations and heavy user traffic is recommended to begin considering the benefits SD-WAN could have. IDC’s SD-WAN Survey from April 2019 found that nearly 95% of the enterprises who were surveyed expected to begin using SD-WAN within the next 2 years.

Will your organisation be one of them?

CT and Juniper will be hosting a Lunch & Learn event in Bendigo this September that will feature an expert panel discussing SD-WAN. Interested? Or know of someone who might be? Secure your spot now.

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