Moving from hardware solutions to software solutions isn’t a new concept for technology professionals, but network infrastructure has traditionally been a hardware-focused world even as applications move to the cloud. With the introduction of SD-WAN, or Software-Defined Wide Area Networks, IT professionals find themselves needing to retool their understanding of flexible networks and security. The MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) has been in use for decades and is an extremely reliable — yet pricey — option for connectivity. Today’s SD-WAN provides the modern organization with the flexibility, scalability, security and efficiency needed to stay competitive in a fast-changing world.
At its most basic, you can think of SD-WAN as a way to tie together a variety of disparate networks as it is equally efficient with internal as well as external internet and even cloud-based applications. Instead of a more rigid WAN network, SD-WAN allows you to configure your network quickly from a centralized location, reducing the potential of human error that can bring your network to its knees and productivity to a screeching halt. Since all variables are driven by software that you configure, this structure can be quickly scaled and new remote locations added without requiring an intense investment in time and physical hardware or redesign.
A key value that you gain when you shift to an SD-WAN is the ability to make shifts locally as well as globally from a centralized dashboard. This makes changes swifter, but also helps protect your network by ensuring that universal security standards are applied at all locations equally. Using an SD-WAN configuration gives you the added benefit of consolidated troubleshooting and error reporting so you can quickly identify any trouble spots or network hotspots and shift resources as needed to add speed and efficiency to your network — something that users are sure to appreciate, even if they never realise it is happening.
Upgrading your network from a more restrictive model to SD-WAN has a variety of benefits for your organization. While some of these gains are realised upfront, others will continue to add value to your organization over time.
Instead of relying on the hardware to make decisions about connections speed and connections as with MPLS, SD-WAN makes agile decisions about the best way to connect users and the data or applications that they need to access.
While there are many benefits of SD-WAN, there is one downside that can be a deal-breaker for certain organizations. Software-Defined WAN does provide extremely reliable uptime, but there can be more packet loss than you would see with a hardware-based network. In this case, you may want to consider a hybrid infrastructure that lets you gain the benefits of SD-WAN for the majority of your applications yet maintains any heavy applications that simply cannot abide packet loss on a more traditional MPLS. The majority of organizations are looking for ways to reduce their cost of connectivity and have very heavy use of their internet or intranet connections — making SD-WAN ideal. Businesses that are growing quickly or expanding into new regions are also likely to see gains from making the switch.
Many organizations are seeing that shifting to an SD-WAN model may help them future-proof their business by creating a flexible, scalable and secure model that can grow with their business. From the reduced cost of connections to the high availability environment, it’s clear that the conversation around SD-WAN will not be going away in technology groups around the world.