What is SD-WAN (Software Defined WAN)?

With enterprise level WANs becoming more complex and expensive to manage, SD-WAN is stepping in to provide a simpler and more cost effective option. Software-defined WAN, SD-WAN for short, has seen a huge impact in data centers where automation of systems is essential. SD-WAN allows IT teams to create virtual networks at the enterprise level, allows for micro-segmentation, and integrates service chaining. The functionality of SD-WAN is slowly improving networking towards total automation.

Aside from its use in data centers, SD-WAN is helping lower the cost and complexity of enterprise WAN. Connecting dozens of remote offices together using provider based MPLS is doable with the right connectivity, but expensive. Other broadband options provide a much more bandwidth at a lower cost, but with limited functionality compared to MPLS cloud.

The best solution would be for companies to use broadband connections to handle the majority of their networking tasks while reserving MPLS connections for mission and time critical data. It is possible to configure systems to handle this hybrid network, but implementation is complex and constant updates would be required as network traffic changes. SD-WAN addresses these complexities and simplifies these optimal hybrid networks providing a multitude of benefits.

Cost Effective

SD-WAN allows companies to rely less on expensive MPLS and more on cheaper broadband. SD-WAN actively measures network parameters to identify if the broadband connection will be able to handle voice or video traffic effectively. The technology can also be configured to reroute traffic in order to guarantee quality of service if it is required for certain periods. This allows companies to reduce expenses and increase broadband services through the use of SD-WAN.

Simplified Operations

Hybrid WAN configurations, involving both MPLS and broadband connections, are challenging to configure. Routing protocols will identify their shortest path and not account for changes in network traffic resulting in lost packets, collisions, and other congestion. IP SLA or PfR can override normal routing protocols but are just as difficult to configure properly.

SD-WAN works to automatically route and reroute traffic as network conditions allow. The IT team only needs to set up the SD-WAN application and the program will handle the details. This removes the complexity from the IT team and places it onto the SD-WAN to solve.

Improved Flexibility

The dynamic adaptations that SD-WAN provides changes the way WAN operates providing additional flexibility to traditional services. In addition to the network flexibility, SD-WAN provides companies with improved flexibility as their IT teams and budget are no longer as constrained.

Challenges of SD-WAN

The biggest challenge before switching to SD-WAN lies in determining ROI. Capital and operating expenses need to be carefully calculated to determine whether SD-WAN will reduce overall WAN costs. SD-WAN used in combination with more broadband links allows companies access to more bandwidth and private connections. However, companies that do not require private connections can rely solely on broadband.

ROI calculations will reveal if SD-WAN will reduce costs. One downside of companies cutting their MPLS services is that many MPLS providers lock users into multiyear contracts that can be hard to break. Early termination fees and service level agreements could add costs and lower ROI.

Vendors must be compared when choosing an SD-WAN solution. There is a variety of SD-WAN products on the market, they are all different and are not compatible with one another. Some programs focus on WAN layers while others replace WAN hardware completely. Companies must factor in long term plans as changing SD-WAN programs in the future could be difficult.

It is generally agreed that SD-WAN solutions must be integrated into a company's WAN. Hardware replacement and depreciation are a factor. This hidden cost could sum up to a significant portion of expenses making SD-WAN too costly to be an effective solution.

Various SD-WAN Solutions

Numerous companies have developed their own SD-WAN solutions. Each solution offers pros and cons and must be compared to a company's specific needs. Check out the full SD-WAN Vendors page for more.

Cisco Intelligent WAN (IWAN) was designed to allow users to create WAN over whichever transport method they are currently using, ie. LTE, the internet, or even MPLS. The application seeks to provide LAN-like performance and reliability across a WAN. Cisco is even adding global caching to their solution thanks to their partnership with Akamai.

CloudGenix - A relatively young startup is offering a product that provides dynamic and hybrid WAN. CloudGenix seeks to also provide centralized services that would previously be allocated across various branches.

Glue Networks Gluware Orchestration Engine is offering another SD-WAN solution that is integrated with existing WAN infrastructure that is Cisco-based. Gluware has total control of the WAN including policy management, provisioning of network hardware, and real-time WAN management. Gluware can utilize Cisco PfR removing the need for IT teams to manually configure and manage PfR.

Netsocket focuses on WAN solutions for managed services providers. While this is slightly different than typical SD-WAN usage, Netsocket's unique architecture can be molded to fit specific enterprise operations. The application provides a central controller built into a small x86 machine that includes a network switch, router, and security platform capable of hosting MSP. The goal being to ship the preconfigured x86 box to a remote location and have the machine automatically come online and "phone home". Once the machine has connected to the controller it will receive updated policy and be able to handle hybrid WAN traffic while also providing local services.

Viptela is a well-funded startup that recently unveiled its Secure Extensible Network (SEN) platform. SEN provides hybrid WAN support, scalable encryption, service chaining, and network segmentation. Viptela implements their solution through a centralized controller and Viptela's vEdge routers.
Created by: admin, Last modification: Wed 29 of Mar, 2017 (14:29 UTC)
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