SD-WAN: 10 essential considerations

SD-WAN is the hottest new technology in networking and many distributed organizations have already or will soon adopt SD-WAN solutions. Here are 10 essential considerations for IT organizations weighing whether to adopt or expand their SD-WANs.

The attraction of SD-WAN stems from the fact that it combines multiple physical WAN links into one logical network and provides traffic prioritization to accelerate performance of applications that are deployed in internal data centers and in clouds.

Using network abstraction, SD-WAN improves the economics of branch connectivity by leveraging inexpensive circuits such as the Internet to address growing bandwidth requirements. SD-WAN is an overlay technology that maps new services – application prioritization, security, management – on top of existing physical networks.

Here are 10 essential considerations when evaluating SD-WAN use.

One: Saving money

The economics of SD-WAN is about cost-avoidance and efficiency in regard to expensive WAN links. With average WAN data growth of 20 percent per year, most organizations need more bandwidth for high-speed communications to their remote offices. SD-WAN enables the secure deployment of internet links DSL, cable, ethernet, wireless and other internet links, either in conjunction with or to replace expensive MPLS connections. On average, these internet connections provide two to five times more bandwidth than similarly priced MPLS connections, directly contributing to return on investment for the SD-WAN appliance.

Two: Improving reliability

SD-WAN enables traffic to flow over two or more independent WAN links.  Thus, IT organizations can diversify their WAN connections to ensure more reliable connectivity to their remote offices by contracting with more than one communications service provider. This can be a combination of traditional MPLSproviders, cable companies and wireless firms. The intelligence of SD-WAN monitors the links and routes traffic over the most efficient one depending on pre-set policies. Leveraging the corporate wireless phone contract, which typically contain large pools of voice and data minutes, can be a great way to provide low cost WAN backup for remote offices with 4G LTE bandwidth, controlled by SD-WAN.

Three: Traffic identification and prioritization

Most organizations are rapidly moving away from hub-and-spoke WAN connections in which all traffic is backhauled to a central data center, and are moving toward direct point-to-point connections between remote office and the fastest onramp to cloud or SaaS applications. SD-WAN enables IT organizations to set application- and user-driven policies about prioritization and security.  SD-WAN identifies the traffic type coming to or from the branch and routes it directly to the correct data center.

Four: It’s plug-and-play

Most SD-WAN solutions are fairly easy to deploy at remote offices. The SD-WAN hardware appliance is typically shipped to the office, plugged into AC power and WAN connections, then remotely configured by IT, a channel partner or a service provider. All products have a learning curve in terms of setting traffic prioritization, security policies and orchestration practices. SD-WAN solutions should be easy to integrate with existing networking gear and network security products at the branch, but this also may require some work.

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