The Internet has been around long before the world first heard of SD-WAN and its benefits. However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that millions of homes and offices connected through broadband to the Web on a 24/7 basis. To adapt to an increasing demand of Internet connectivity and guarantee stable networks, enterprises, since then, have opted for Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) solutions.
Fundamentally, MPLS allows a router to place a ‘label’ on packets of Internet traffic, each label explaining where the information needs to go next. This, in turn, reduces processing time at each router – a speed augmentation that was welcomed by big business twenty years ago.
But the year is 2021, and the challenges businesses face today are unprecedented to say the least. In the early 00s, digital transformation was unknown; corporate applications were not in the cloud; and users were not accessing the Internet from mobile devices. MPLS was an adequate solution for yesterday’s challenges, but not today’s. Cloud-fueled global enterprises demand a high-performance, application-agnostic managed network solution – that’s where SD-WAN comes into play.
What is SD-WAN?
To understand what is Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN), first, we need to get our heads around Wide Area Network (WAN).
WAN is, in a nutshell, any form of telecommunications network where information travels between devices in different locations via either virtual private networks (VPNs), lines, or wireless networks.
If WAN didn’t exist, for instance, enterprise connection would be restricted to specific areas or geographic regions. As businesses grow and become global organizations, WAN allows them to share data between branches and stay connected.
Historically, the two most popular WAN connectivity options have been MPLS and broadband Internet. Businesses have tended to prefer MPLS, as it is essentially a private network, and therefore considered reliable and secure. However, as previously said, MPLS is not designed to handle the high volumes of WAN traffic that result from SaaS applications and cloud adoption. In addition, because of its private aspect, it is also an expensive network solution.
SD-WAN is a newer approach to WAN. It’s a product (not a network infrastructure) that acts as an overlay for companies’ existing network solution (may it be MPLS, broadband Internet or a hybrid model), separating the network control and management processes from the underlying hardware and making them available, as the name suggests, as software, just like any application. By using a centralized control function, it securely and intelligently steers traffic across multiple sites, adjusting bandwidth where it’s needed most. This allows enterprises to enjoy the spoils of broadband without uprooting everything from the ground.
What are the benefits of SD-WAN for your business?
SD-WAN presents a flexible option for those looking for an alternative to MPLS or hybrid network configurations. That’s because SD-WAN can manage multiple types of connections – including MPLS and broadband – and route traffic over the best path in real-time. Virtualizing your business network can result in endless benefits. Let’s have a look at each below.
Improved Wan performance
SD-WAN offers faster business connection by allowing for multiple high-bandwidth WAN links simultaneously (such as MPLS and Internet), as well as for dual service providers – naturally, when bonding different types of connection together, performance is optimized.
On top of that, SD-WAN also uses Artificial Intelligence to control the traffic from one location to another and re-route to the highest-performing available link, maximizing capacity and improving user experience especially for SaaS and cloud-based applications such as Slack, SalesForce, and Office365.
Even when requirements change and more – or less – bandwidth is needed in different applications, SD-WAN quickly responds accordingly. For example, Zoom video calls might require significant bandwidth, whereas a group of employees on Twitter can be pushed to the lowest priority. This way, business-critical applications have minimal latency.
MPLS functions via a private network. This avoids security pitfalls, but limitations to network connectivity remain. Direct access to the public Internet, in turn, can be used to improve user experience, but presents safety concerns.
SD-WAN is secure by design, meaning encrypted end-to-end tunnels (128 bits and up) are built across the whole network (whether 0% or 100% of it is carried on public infrastructure). This makes a great base for businesses’ in-house firewall or access gateways, and doesn’t rule out additional security at authentication or application levels.
Ease of use
Better Network Management
SD-WAN introduces a network overlay that lets businesses respond to changing operational needs quickly. Since it doesn’t rely on the underlay (it’s a virtual network solution), it can be rapidly deployed and adjusted to the customer’s needs.
Company-wide connectivity requirements can be orchestrated from a central management dashboard that offers full network visibility across branches. By having a 360, real-time view of their business Internet performance, companies have full control of their network, and can provide better network performance as the situation demands.
SD-WAN enables Cloud Access
Businesses are increasingly deploying latency-sensitive applications onto the Cloud. It makes their workforce more agile, collaborative and productive, ultimately increasing their competitive advantage.
With many enterprises now making use of multi-cloud environments, complexity has skyrocketed to such an extent that only an SD-WAN solution can manage it.
SD-WAN introduces dynamic capabilities to enhance connectivity to the Cloud, enabling the use of multiple underlay links to manage and steer user traffic depending on the best performing path, the type of data (voice, video, etc.), and its destination.
A more efficient solution for global networks
SD-WAN customers are not locked into an overarching network or have to pay for superfluous services, which in turn makes SD-WAN a much cheaper option than traditional WANs such as MPLS. In fact, we have seen an average reduction of about 40% in fees when companies make the switch to SD-WAN.
That’s mainly because SD-WAN allows companies to pick-and-mix access technologies, carriers, hardware and other network components to suit specific needs. For example, both Internet broadband and mobile 4G are typically cheap connectivity options. By choosing those links for certain types of low-priority traffic, instead of the expensive MPLS network, companies can significantly reduce budget.
Less downtime for your business
As mentioned before, SD-WAN leverages multiple network links to enhance user experience. However, it’s worth mentioning it also improves site reliability. A secure overlay provided by SD-WAN can combine a highly-personalized and diversified mixture of network links to create a safety net and virtually eliminate the fear of network outages. In a nutshell, SD-WAN allows businesses to “supercharge” their network, making it more secure and resilient.
Positive Business Impact
All benefits combined create an impact
For all the reasons mentioned above, SD-WAN can have a huge impact on business operations and consequently its turnover. It ensures that company services remain at peak levels — determined by business priority, not as dictated by network hardware. And, in times when competitors are only a click away, a minor delay in response time is the fine line between a new lead and a lost opportunity.
But more than that, network connectivity should be treated as the very foundation upon which the rest of a company’s agile work environment will be built. With SD-WAN, organizations not only future-proof themselves, they can also enjoy a plethora of new skills and an excellent return on investment.
What Expereo can do for your Business
The benefits of switching to SD-WAN are endless, as well as the number of competent service providers available in the current marketplace. The problem is, many different components can affect your transition to SD-WAN and overall network performance, from conducting a thorough site survey to preparing adequate bandwidth. A dedicated MSP should be able to help you with that.
Whether dealing with complex legacy infrastructure or resolving interactions between underlay and overlay, we at Expereo design, implement, and monitor all-encompassing aspects that power SD-WAN. We understand the international regulatory framework, how it relates to SD-WAN and have the knowledge to guide your business in optimizing your network performance.
Such is our expertise, we’ve been acknowledged by CISCO as an advanced partner of its Cloud and Managed Service Program (CMSP). This means we are certified to guarantee enterprise-class performance, whilst also meeting strict qualifications. Our services are built on validated structures and best-practice open standards, letting you connect with confidence.
Count on us for dedicated project managers, deep experience, and responsive support, ready to make your business transformation to an internet-based, cloud-centric SD-WAN smooth and pain-free.
We can take you from where you are now, to where you want to be.