Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN)

For companies that rely increasingly on cloud applications while simultaneously seeking to contain costs and operate more efficiently, traditional Wide Area Network (WAN) solutions can present some limitations. Software-defined WAN - or SD-WAN - has emerged as an option for organizations looking for a high-performing and secure multi-site networking solution.

What SD-WAN is and How it Works

SD-WAN basically applies the concepts of software-defined networking (SDN) for internal data centers to a WAN. An SD-WAN solution uses a software abstraction to create a virtual network overlay. The overlay provides a common interface for different physical components. It allows for centralized network control, automation, and for remote programming of edge appliances (as opposed to the manual configuration of routers at branch sites).

Businesses typically use WANs to connect different sites, traditionally with private networks (e.g., private T1 access to Multiprotocol Label Switching, or MPLS, services). However, cloud-based solutions like virtualized applications and streaming services have placed a growing strain on WANs with their need for low latency as well as their bandwidth requirements.

Enterprise WANs can become relatively costly and complicated if an organization uses the traditional method of private networks (e.g., Multiprotocol Label Switching networks) to connect multiple sites. Private connections offer higher quality and more secure connections than a method like broadband. However, they come at a greater price as well.

SD-WAN can solve this problem by automating the continued configuration of WAN edge routers. A software-defined solution can potentially route traffic over a combination of private MPLS connections, public broadband, and other types of linking technology. Sensitive data or applications that require low latency can be run over private connections, while lower priority data can be sent over broadband.

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