Modern business technologies like AI, cloud computing, and mobile devices can overtax traditional networks. SD-WAN offers a flexible network solution that routes mission-critical data through the best path, ensuring high performance.
It combines multiple connection types into one logical link—including private MPLS with direct Internet broadband. But what are the fundamentals of SD-WAN?
Controlling the WAN
Modern WAN optimization solutions prioritize business-focused traffic and real-time services such as VoIP. These applications require consistent, high-performance connections. However, congested paths can cause latency and packet loss, reducing efficiency and employee morale. SD-WAN eliminates these productivity-impacting issues by routing data most efficiently.
The most critical step to ensure your organization will benefit from an SD-WAN solution is formal testing during a proof of concept (POC). Selecting an active path test tool that emulates application performance is critical. Choose one that supports natural or synthetic network transactions. Measure performance over multiple geographic routes to identify bottlenecks and determine if the SD-WAN can meet your needs.
Unlike traditional router-centric models, an SD-WAN provides application-aware routing. It enables the secure internet breakout of IaaS and SaaS applications from the branch and optimizes their quality of experience. It also allows IT to flex bandwidth to support business priorities, ensuring users can access and use cloud-based applications without sacrificing security.
When choosing an SD-WAN provider, look for one specializing in managed wide-area networks. That means they will provide comprehensive service, including pre-sale through post-sale support and carrier service coordination. It allows you to work with a single representative throughout the process, saving you time and reducing frustration. In addition, working with a managed network provider with a broad portfolio of networking solutions can help you find the right solution to fit your organization.
Securing the WAN
The proliferation of business applications, cloud services, and Internet of Things devices is changing how work gets done, but it can overly tax traditional networks. It can also necessitate hiring more IT specialists on-site to manage local IT infrastructure, driving up costs.
Small businesses require a system that offers fine-grained management over network traffic to reduce these dangers and boost performance. The fundamentals of SD-WAN come into play here because it functions as a software overlay that chooses the optimal path to its destination based on real-time statistics and policy settings, prioritizing vital data.
Choosing an SD-WAN with application optimization features is also essential, as it can help prevent issues like slow calls, dropped connections, or poor video quality. It is achieved by reducing data packet loss, latency, and bandwidth consumption.
When securing the WAN, choosing an SD-WAN with built-in encrypted traffic inspection is essential. Cybercriminals often hide malware within VPN traffic to infiltrate networks and steal data. An SD-WAN that offers built-in security will inspect traffic at the network speed of the applications being used and help detect, defend, and isolate live threats.
An ideal SD-WAN will also support centralized configuration, helping to reduce deployment times and manual processes. It can significantly minimize human errors leading to performance or security vulnerabilities.
Simplifying the WAN
SD-WAN solutions centrally manage firewalls and routers, upgrade software and firmware, provide a virtual private network (VPN), and connect remote sites to the Internet. They also prioritize traffic, efficiently use bandwidth, and improve performance, especially when connecting to cloud applications. It reduces the amount of data that travels over the WAN, improving security by preventing the transmission of sensitive information over insecure connections such as public Wi-Fi.
An SD-WAN can also rely on multiple WAN paths to optimize performance and resilience and ensure that critical apps always get the needed priority. It is possible by applying WAN optimization and routing algorithms that analyze real-time data statistics, ensuring that application traffic follows the best route available.
Lastly, an SD-WAN can help eliminate the need for costly backhauling by sending traffic directly to trusted cloud providers via the Internet. Implementing an SD-WAN solution can reduce maintenance costs by minimizing the number of routers and servers needed at each branch. Additionally, it simplifies the implementation of controls and procedures to mitigate risks and prevent cyber threats from infiltrating the corporate network.
The technology behind an SD-WAN is based on the principles of software-defined networking (SDN), which decouples data plane forwarding from control plane management to enable increased automation, operational simplification, and centralized network and policy management. It allows for the deployment of new services and connections at branch offices to be accomplished far more quickly than traditional methods, without requiring a visit from an IT specialist.
Managing the WAN
Today’s digital enterprises require secure access to critical applications, data, and tools from multiple locations across the globe. The IT team must ensure application performance for employees working at home, on the road, or remotely on their mobile devices. In addition, enterprises must manage cloud connectivity with a combination of public and private clouds. It creates security concerns and new requirements that require an entirely new network model.
Traditional WANs typically include routers at each site communicating with a central controller to set policies. However, this architecture doesn’t scale well and increases management complexity. A next-generation SD-WAN provides centralized control and optimization with more agility and cost efficiency.
A central controller enables administrators to configure and push policies to each router in the branch network simultaneously, making deployments more straightforward and faster. In addition, SD-WAN can optimize traffic by prioritizing the most critical applications and using various WAN transports to deliver optimal performance (e.g., MPLS, broadband Internet, 3G/4G, or LTE).
In addition, a comprehensive SD-WAN solution should provide network visibility to help identify issues such as bandwidth usage, latency, and packet loss. It allows IT professionals to pinpoint problems and take steps toward resolution quickly. Additionally, it enables them to predict future capacity and bandwidth needs to improve user experience.