What is Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (or SD-WAN/SDWAN) and how can it help your business?

SD-WAN (SDWAN), or Software-Defined Wide Area Networking, is technology applied to Wide Area Network (WAN) connections that connect enterprise networks over large geographic distances. It moves network control into the cloud using software, simplifying the management of a WAN. 

Gartner defines SD-WAN with four key requirements: 

  1. SD-WAN supports multiple connection types: MPLS, broadband, Internet, LTE Wireless etc.
  2. The SD-WAN solution must perform load sharing of traffic across multiple WAN connections efficiently and dynamically.
  3. SD-WAN must simplify management, configuration, and orchestration of WAN solutions.
  4. SD-WAN must provide secure VPN and integrate into firewalls, WAN optimization, and other network services.

How SD-WAN can benefit your business 

Cloud-based applications make the business world go around. How your corporate network is designed directly affects your ability to access and properly utilize business-critical applications, share data, utilize social media services, connect via video conference, and more. 

But applications aren’t uniform; they all don’t need the same level of speed, latency and performance from a network. By boosting network capacity exactly where it’s needed, SD-WAN ensures the quality of application delivery. SD-WAN’s dynamic path selection also avoids congestion points and diverts traffic to less-travelled routes. This kind of responsive load balancing lets IT easily perform the high-quality data transfers that are needed for high-performance applications. 

Furthermore, adoption of SD-WAN allows organizations to transform themselves by utilizing the four pillars that IDC (IDC – Third Platform) calls technology enablers – Cloud, Big Data Analytics, Mobile and Social. These enablers allow businesses to accelerate their digital transformation, a competitive advantage necessary to thrive as technology changes how we live and work. 

The financial benefits of SD-WAN

By combining cloud-based applications and SD-WAN, businesses are able to cut costs in three areas: energy consumption, IT CapEx and OpEx. Some reports state businesses are able to see a whopping 40 to 50% reduction in spending in these three key areas, making SD-WAN a great way to optimize your organization’s IT expenses. 

It pays to make the switch. Costly and rigid proprietary WAN connections are legacy services that big telecommunications companies don’t want to go anywhere because of the revenue they represent. Chew on this stat – more than half of all companies still back-haul their IP traffic through their networks adding layers of expense. 

SD-WAN is circuit and carrier agnostic which means that it can use any local connectivity available to get you to the cloud: fibre, copper, coax, P2P Wireless, or LTE. This is good news for organizations that want to untether themselves from the constraints of their current service providers. 

SD-WAN as the future of connectivity

According to Silver Peak, in 2018, most enterprises will adopt a cloud-first SD-WAN architecture to accommodate their SaaS and IaaS environments. They report that MPLS revenue has flattened even though data usage and cloud connectivity have skyrocketed – which they conclude means one of two things: companies are choosing to forgo performance to keep costs down, or they are starting to adopt SD-WAN. 

The initial wave of SD-WAN deployments was spearheaded by early adopters willing to go it alone with “Do-It-Yourself” SD-WAN deployments, meaning they likely configured, deployed and managed it in-house. The next wave of adopters might prefer to outsource networking and might seek a fully-managed solution. Others still might want deployment assistance but want to manage the network themselves, while others might want co-management. The good news is that in 2018 and beyond, enterprises will have more options to choose from with traditional VARs, system integrators and service providers all bringing to market new SD-WAN services that fill out this spectrum from DIY to fully managed. 

It’s still early days. Standardization among vendors appears to be an issue, however, if SD-WAN can provide the benefits of network optimization, application security, self-provisioning and centralized policy control then the adoption rate will accelerate quickly. It might soon be time for you to make the move to SD-WAN to simplify your corporate IT infrastructure to save you time and money. 


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