What is Software-Defined WAN or SD-WAN ?
The software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN or SDWAN) is a specific application of software-defined networking (SDN) technology applied to WAN connections such as broadband internet, 4G, LTE, or MPLS. It connects enterprise networks – including branch offices and data centers – over large geographic distances.
A WAN might be used, for example, to connect branch offices to a central corporate network, or to connect data centers separated by distance. In the past, WAN connections often used technology that required special proprietary hardware. SD-WAN, on the other hand, utilizes the internet or cloud-native private network. SD-WAN decouples the network from the management plane and detaches the traffic management and monitoring functions from hardware. It relies on four central components:
- Edge Connectivity Abstraction
- WAN Virtualization
- Policy-Driven, Centralized Management
- Elastic Traffic Management
Source: Nemertes Research
SD-WAN (SDWAN) Business Drivers
Enterprise customers are demanding more flexible, open, and cloud-based WAN technologies, rather than installing proprietary or specialized WAN technology that often involves expensive, fixed circuits, or proprietary hardware.
Many of the new software-defined WAN offerings, for example, can be used to improve and secure internet connectivity, making it more competitive with more expensive legacy WAN technologies such as T-1 or MPLS. However, according to a Nemertes study, “78% of organizations deploying SD-WAN have no plan to completely drop MPLS from their WAN.” In some cases, software-defined WAN technology uses internet broadband connections to replace more expensive solutions. Virtualization technology can apply security and virtual private networking (VPN) technology to broadband Internet connections, making them more secure.
A noticeable trend in the networking arena is the rising adoption of the multi-cloud in enterprise networking. The multi-cloud is a mix of private and public clouds. Common combinations are several public clouds or a public cloud and a private cloud – with each cloud serving a specific business application. SD-WAN is often integrated in a multi-cloudstrategy as it improves connectivity and boosts security in the multi-cloud. Its scalability across numerous locations and its centralized management for both the public and private cloud ease the management of the multi-cloud. Several SD-WAN products encrypt data across the connectivity points and provide firewalls and application-based security. Learn more about the benefits of SD-WAN for the multi-cloud in this research brief, Networking for Multi-Cloud — An SD-WAN Perspective.
The trend is expected to accelerate over the next few years. What started as a solution for branch-office and data-center WAN connectivity requiring less proprietary equipment appears to be expanding into a wide range of SD-WAN (SDWAN) offerings and technologies including VPN, security, edge, WAN optimization, NaaS, and application policy control.
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