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SD-WAN - what is it?

You may have heard about SD-WAN, one of the fastest-growing tech sectors. In fact, the International Data Corporation estimates that the SD-WAN market is poised to reach $5.25 billion by 2023. The reason is simple: software-defined WAN allows businesses to extend their network capabilities to branch offices, mobile users, and into the cloud quickly and easily.

But what exactly is SD-WAN and why might it be a strong option for your business? Let’s dig in.

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN is a software-defined wide area network. Unlike traditional WAN networks, which may have used specific hardware, SD-WAN makes use of the internet or cloud-based private networks.

Traditional WANs are based on conventional routers. At large enterprises where SaaS, teleconferencing, and remote working have become more popular, WANs have often delivered a poor user experience — blame it on the fact that WANs backhaul all traffic, even what’s meant for the cloud, from branch offices to a data centre hub. The strain can lead to delays, frustrated employees, and lost productivity. Enter SD-WAN.

SD-WANs allow businesses to use whatever ISP connections and technologies are available, including MPLS (multi-protocol label switching), broadband, and 4G, instead of being forced to use a single specific one. In fact, the best SD-WAN solutions seamlessly merge different connection technology and ISPs, allowing each site to get the best performance.

Because SD-WAN doesn’t rely on a single network link like normal WANs, there’s a lower risk of an outage taking down your whole network. Instead, SD-WAN routes traffic to the next available link, reconfiguring itself across the network to maintain optimal throughput. SD-WANs are also transport- and carrier-agnostic, so organisations can deploy them over high-speed public internet or wireless connections.

Simplified management, higher performance

SD-WAN optimises mission-critical business processes such as email, ERP, IP-telephony, and cloud-based services with carrier-grade speeds. Network managers can deploy new services, add new users, devices, and branches, and adjust policies on the fly without having to reallocate network resources.

It also simplifies the management and operation of a WAN by decoupling the networking hardware from its control mechanism, similar to how software-defined networking uses virtualisation to improve data centre management and operations.

A key feature of SD-WAN is that it allows enterprises to build higher-performance WANs using commercially available internet access. This enables businesses to partially or wholly replace legacy private WAN connection technologies such as MPLS (multi-protocol label switching).

Gartner predicts that by 2023, more than 90 per cent of WAN edge infrastructure refresh initiatives will be based on either virtualised customer premises equipment (vCPE) platforms or SD-WAN software/appliances.

Security and SD-WAN

Many organisations are leaving their SD-WAN architectures vulnerable to misuse and attacks. SD-WAN alone doesn’t address security; security must be added. This is a result of the overlay network which is created and having more threat points to manage. To establish and secure an SD-WAN branch office, IT managers must install, configure, and maintain both the SD-WAN appliance as well as the firewall. Some SD-WAN vendors will integrate security capabilities into the SD-WAN device. However, we often see businesses utilise two vendors and two systems with different licensing models, adding further complexity into the solution.

Managed SD-WAN devices from Vocus tightly integrates all the networking functionality inherent in SD-WAN with the security features of a next-generation firewall. It also incorporates security services, including dynamic analysis, to detect unknown attacks before they can corrupt your network, and advanced threat protection to defend against known exploits, malware, and malicious websites. In addition, the security services can all be monitored and administered directly from the SD-WAN management console — no need for a separate setup.

Who SD-WAN is most beneficial for?

Vocus Managed SD-WAN is perfect for businesses of any size that want scalable management of network and security policies across multiple sites, with firewall, routing, and SD-WAN management capability as standard. We also design and implement your solution, as well as provide ongoing management of network and security policies across multiple sites.

When you’re ready to add SD-WAN to your IT solution, Vocus can deliver.