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How can SD-WAN benefit your business network service?

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How can SD-WAN benefit your business network service?

Extract: SD-WAN benefits include lower connectivity costs, better application performance and more modernized security across the network.

SD-WAN technology enables predictable, secure network performance for both regular TCP applications and more demanding real-time ones, such as VoIP and video. It delivers these benefits through a virtual architecture with centralized control of policies, supported by flexible modes of transport and modernized security measures.

How does an SD-WAN compare to an MPLS WAN? 

Unlike traditional WANs, SD-WANs are not exclusively reliant on MPLS links, nor on hub-and-spoke designs under which all traffic gets backhauled through a data center before being forwarded to the internet.

MPLS connectivity is relatively expensive. Although it provides an efficient and secure way to move traffic through a WAN, MPLS has distinct limitations:

  • It can cost many times more per megabit than broadband.
  • Even for that price, it does not provide sufficient bandwidth for “chatty” (i.e., always-active) SaaS applications.
  • The backhaul security model for its traffic noticeably degrades the network performance of mission-critical applications like video conferencing.

To summarize, MPLS is not a good overall fit for connecting branch offices to the cloud, which is where a growing share of all business applications are located.

SD-WANs provide clear alternatives to MPLS WANs. They can leverage broadband, cellular and satellite connectivity instead of (or in addition to) MPLS, dynamically steer traffic and change policies to assure application performance and keep security threats at bay across the WAN architecture. These are the primary SD-WAN benefits, though there are many others.

How does an SD-WAN architecture work?

An SD-WAN relies upon certain physical and/or virtual appliances - usually off-the-shelf, x86 hardware - connected to one another over encrypted tunnels.

Together, this infrastructure monitors network traffic and current conditions, dynamically directing traffic over the best available paths in accordance with set policies. These paths may be over multiple types of transport, for example broadband for a cloud connection and cellular as backup. An SD-WAN can actively take advantage of all of these types of connectivity as needed.

Since an SD-WAN is managed in software rather than device-by-device (i.e., at the hardware level), policy changes can be made and rolled out much more efficiently. Similarly, branch office setup is straightforward, with some SD-WANs allowing for zero-touch (automatic) configuration once the site is connected.

Even with the added convenience, SD-WANs do not skimp on security. They may send some traffic to a cloud security service while allowing other, more trusted flows to pass directly over the internet. Secure local internet breakout, which connect branch offices directly to the cloud, are increasingly common within SD-WANs, as they provide an excellent balance of network performance and security.

At the same time, there are many other viable measures for protecting traffic, including integrated next-generation firewalls, unified threat management appliances and virtualized network functions. No matter the exact mix of safeguards in place, SD-WAN avoids the data center backhaul bottleneck of MPLS WAN security.

What are the SD-WAN benefits for businesses?

Businesses considering an SD-WAN upgrade often do so because they seek superior application performance plus improved ROI from their WAN connectivity spend.

Rather than pay for MPLS links that don’t scale to their current application needs, organizations can invest in an SD-WAN architecture that uses regular broadband to securely support even their most demanding apps. VoIP and video conferencing in particular struggle within MPLS architectures and are better served by ample bandwidth and predictable performance of an SD-WAN.

To boil down the value proposition of an SD-WAN, it makes cost-effective non-MPLS connectivity like commodity internet plans suitable for handling mission-critical traffic. This central advantage unlocks the other SD-WAN benefits of a solution, which include:

  • Centralized and programmable management of the network.
  • Application-driven policies that prioritize more demanding apps.
  • Assured performance for video and voice traffic.
  • Savings on WAN connectivity due to reduced MPLS reliance.
  • More bandwidth to support SaaS applications.
  • A better balance between security and app performance (no required backhaul).
  • Automatic/zero-touch provisioning of branch office connections.
  • Increased agility since WAN policies and behaviors can be quickly changed.
  • Secure internet breakouts to the cloud.
  • Flexible transport options, including MPLS, internet, cellular and satellite.
  • Reduced hardware footprint since specialized MPLS routers are no longer as important. 

Beyond these high-profile SD-WAN benefits, SD-WANs may also be paired with other solutions, ranging from third-party security services to SD-LAN offerings that bring SD-WAN-like upgrades to local area networks. The combined pairing of SD-WAN and SD-LAN is known as SD-Branch and can help simplify the overall infrastructure in place at branch locations while further automating network management.

SD-WANs are not the same as software-defined networking (SDN). SDN is similar in theory but limited in practice to deployments in telecom infrastructure and data centers, not as a replacement for MPLS WAN deployments. Implementing an SD-WAN requires a specific solution from a proven vendor like Telesystem. To learn more about our SD-WAN offering, connect with a member of our team today. 

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