As many in the know agree, SD-WAN will prove to be one of the biggest and most important networking trends for the next few years, but many in the industry are still in the dark about this revolutionary new technology. So, for the uninitiated, what exactly is SD-WAN?
SD-WAN is an acronym for software-defined wide area network (WAN). The fundamental term here being ‘software-defined’, which is a method of simplifying the management and operation of the network by decoupling hardware from its control mechanism. Still confused?
It can be argued that the majority of wireless LAN implementations are software-defined; since wireless access points do not hold any configuration. Very simple devices, their configuration and security profiles are centrally controlled and deployed from on-premise or cloud-based controller.
As with any emerging trend, the definition of SD-WAN is wide and varied. A plethora of vendors and carriers are looking to promote a version which fits their own capabilities – however, the fundamental principles remain constant.
SD-WAN enables companies to construct a private cloud, connecting remote locations or branches using lower cost services such as Direct Internet Access (DIA), 4G or broadband without the need for expensive proprietary hardware or replacing expensive private circuits such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS). Moreover, SD-WAN technology enables customers to select the very best network solution for each location and gain both massive economic improvements, as well as substantial improvements in performance, flexibility and control.
Previously, a business needed a data centre to host normal business services such as email, storage and application servers, which meant connecting offices to a single location, often overlaid with complex security management and expensive carrier costs. The growth of cloud-based business services like Office 365, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, means the need for centralised business services is diminishing. However, the demand for secure, flexible, scalable and cost-effective network services is significantly rising, which is why businesses are now looking toward SD-WAN.
While it’s true that enterprise customers are more likely to have MPLS infrastructures connecting branch offices to centralised digital integration within private data centres, the widespread adoption of cloud and virtualised services now means MPLS is fast becoming an expensive option. SD-WAN is an ideal alternative.
Additionally, as with other similar technologies, SD-WAN establishes the method to manage via a single screen using your favourite browser. Many will have seen the benefit of being able to manage hundreds of sites with a very small team of support staff or a combination of staff and trusted partners; a highly cost-effective solution and can be managed from anywhere.
The advantages of SD-WAN also proliferate with smaller or medium-sized businesses. Any type of carrier service can connect to an SD-WAN created private cloud including mobile devices; perfect for those businesses who need secure access to private business applications and information from any location. This flexibility means smaller businesses don’t have to be confined to an office, enabling greater interaction with customers and more rapid sales process with cloud-based order processing from any location.
SD-WAN has been the domain of the carriers like BT and Virgin for some time. Clearly, the technology lends itself to integration with mobile services and delivering managed services – but the advantages are now being realised by businesses who are looking to cost-effectively grow within the today’s dynamic marketplace using a mix of secured private and public business service that is accessible from anywhere and anytime.
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