SD-WAN Benefits: Starting with The Basics
SD-WAN benefits may be complex to understand, especially for people who own a business but do not have an IT-related background. This post will help you learn the basics of this technology and why it improves your company’s bandwidth and costs.
The acronym SD-WAN stands for Software-Defined Wide-Area Network. Compared to a traditional WAN, SD-WANs are based on software, not hardware. Therefore, they are a type of virtual infrastructure that manages your company’s video, voice, and other data traffic flows.
As Network World reported, SD-WANs, “control the connectivity, management, and services between data centers and remote branches or cloud instances. Like its bigger technology brother, software-defined networking, SD-WAN decouples the control plane from the data plane.”
If yours is like most organizations, you have different types of communications traffic. Some of it is time-sensitive, others are not. At the same time, part of your applications consume tons of bandwidth, while others don’t. SD-WAN is an intelligent way to manage your traffic flows because it chooses the appropriate path for your network traffic types.
The pandemic increased the popularity of video streaming, cloud applications, AI, and big data. The urgent need for more bandwidth in organizations of all sizes exploded with this high demand.
Some companies realized their traffic used one high-cost link and one backup to drive all their traffic through a single path, causing lagging and other Internet stability issues. They possibly used Multiprotocol Label Switching or MPLS, or another more traditional and expensive technology to carry all their site-to-site traffic.
After implementing SD-WAN, multiple paths become available for all kinds of traffic. The network selects the route based on the active application and the traffic destination, with more speed, efficiency, and stability.
Now that you know more about SD-WANs and their primary function, let’s dig into how it works and why it is beneficial.
How does an SD-WAN Work?: An Example
Let’s use a typical example, applicable to companies of all sizes, to explain how exactly SD-WAN benefits work.
Email isn’t usually a time-sensitive application. Even though bandwidth demand to send and receive an email could vary, it does not need low latency or a high-quality path to deliver the service. An SD-WAN would identify this traffic as such and transport it over the lowest-cost path available at that time.
On the other hand, your voice-over IP (VoIP) calls or HD video conferencing solutions demand low latency and a high-quality path to deliver on that application’s service level agreement (SLA or the terms and conditions under which certain software runs efficiently). SD-WAN will send this traffic over a path matching the SLA. The most evident result in this scenario is that end-users experience less time asking their counterparts, “Can you hear me now?” because voice and video data “travels” seamlessly.
Application-Aware Routing (AAR) is the term that defines this SD-WAN capability which, along with circuit performance, makes the transport type (MPLS, Direct Internet, Broadband, etc.) transparent. The network looks at how that circuit is performing (latency, jitter, congestion, etc.) and looks at the application the user is utilizing. Then, it chooses the correct path to take based on the requirements of that particular application.
SD-WAN Benefits for Your Business
There is ample evidence that SD-WAN benefits are turning this technology into the new normal for businesses. In a recent report, Gartner indicated that SD-WAN and workplace analytics are among the top technologies to facilitate remote work. They also announced that SD-WANs help midsize enterprises with cost optimization, operational simplification, and are excellent at “reducing time spent managing the WAN by 50% or more.”
Here are some other tangible advantages of implementing SD-WAN in your business.
Easier implementation may be the most attractive SD-WAN benefit to any enterprise. Network managers or business owners can control everything from a single panel, which allows for more automated, low-touch deployments.
A simple implementation process doesn’t just save your company time and money when you open a new office; it also makes your life a lot easier in the event of hardware failure. Because there are multiple paths, redundancy is built in to maintain business continuity.
SD-WANs Work for Companies of All Sizes
SD-WAN offers solutions for businesses operating over large and diverse geographical areas, as well as for the smaller single-location companies. As we mentioned above, they are probably spending more than they might on a service like MPLS, while not getting the speed and security they would like out of traditional broadband. Therefore, it might be the right time to explore and implement SD-WAN.
The right SD-WAN implementation partner will create a custom network design with the best connectivity options to support your specific business and technical requirements. They can custom-design the network while deploying a solution that is effective and secure.
Transport and Carrier Agnosticism
One of the biggest SD-WAN benefits is that it is “carrier agnostic,” which means that you can choose any available service provider at any of your locations. Businesses can even select a transport from any provider on a per-location basis. This allows you to acquire more bandwidth for a lower cost, getting a better service for each location.
A carrier-agnostic SD-WAN implementation will reduce costs and ensure you have high service availability at a reasonable price.
Intelligent Path Control
As we mentioned in the SD-WAN examples above, application flows steer through the best available paths at any moment in time. This enhances the application experience for end-users, regardless of the time of day and location.
Application Visibility and Optimization
Because of its software-based nature, SD-WAN administrators can monitor and report hundreds of applications running on the network. They can also control individual application flows independently by creating policies that optimize every application.
Regardless of the technology used to process and transport data, data of all types must be secure. The best SD-WAN uses modern encryption and optional add-in firewall functions, such as zone-based firewalls, next-generation firewall features, and service chaining. Keep in mind that customized network configuration is vital for data protection. To take full advantage of SD-WAN benefits, be sure to choose an SD-WAN provider with all the security expertise, credentials, and knowledge to offer robust data-safety options for your company.
If your company has several locations, SD-WAN makes it easy for you to set up new offices with a plug-and-play approach. All the network’s devices are controlled from a single portal, no matter the number of business locations.
Improved Network Performance
Top SD-WAN providers offer proactive monitoring tools to ensure optimal network performance and stability 24/7. These tools will allow you to have peace of mind because you can take preventive measures in case of any failure report.
Finding the right SD-WAN implementation partner is the first step to migrate your company’s network to this technology. Whether you want an SD-WAN provider or manage it yourself, BCM One can put all the components together by guiding you through the planning, design, deployment, and management phases. Our network engineers will create a comprehensive solution for your organization: From finding an SD-WAN provider to setting up new circuits to managing payment for all these new services. Contact us today to learn more.