SD-WAN literally means Software Defined Wide Area Networking. The software defined networking part reflects the transition from network traffic being controlled by hardware switches and moving into a simple software environment which runs on a standard server.
The WAN part refers to the enterprise-level WAN, not the internet but the network layer that manages traffic to and from data centres and other business locations.
One of the upfront benefits of using this technology is the ease and speed of set-up. A couple of years ago, a company needing to set-up similar WAN management would need to invest heavily in network equipment, organise to have it delivered, pay an engineer to install it and a technician to configure it. The entire process could take more than a month and involve a considerable organisational overhead.
With software-defined networking a simple, inexpensive server can be delivered to a business location and a non-specialist member of staff can plug it in and turn it on. It’s as straightforward as that.
“Putting together multiple public and private links gives better Quality of Service (QoS) which makes their application experience much more effective, reliable and efficient.”Simon Morris, Principal Consultant of Telstra's Managed Network Services
The benefits of SD-WAN
Using SD-WAN rather than a regular network connection has other benefits beyond being faster and cheaper, says Simon Morris, Principal Consultant of Telstra’s Managed Network Services.
“Traditional WAN computing provides customers with a single link, whether that is to the internet or a private-based connection. SD-WAN gives customers the opportunity to deliver multiple links into their branch offices in order to access applications from the cloud. Putting together multiple public and private links gives better Quality of Service (QoS) which makes their application experience much more effective, reliable and efficient.”
Morris also says that requests for SD-WAN are coming from every type of customer in every type of industry.
The technology has been particularly successful in retail environments.
Take electronics stores as an example: premises regularly need to deal with high-priority inventory and sales requests on a network that is simultaneously serving multiple streams of Ultra-High Definition 4K TV to multiple televisions. By separating this traffic onto different networks via software, QoS is maintained, network congestion mitigated and most importantly, small transactions aren’t swamped by an avalanche of bandwidth-intensive video content.
Meanwhile, it’s also an effective solution for healthcare providers, whose sensitive data requires regular backup and network resiliency. Here, a customer can use a private link to access secure records at a data centre but, if this ever fails, can instantly fallback to an internet-based
route, wrapped in multiple secure layers as a contingency.
The system’s flexibility also provided added value - when its contingency layer wasn’t in use, the provider could easily segment it off as a visitor WiFi service.
Large and small, enterprises have much to gain from SD-WAN, as file sizes grow and traffic from Internet of Things devices increases. Robust, QoS can keep the most-important traffic from flowing smoothly across their networks and addressing such issues is quicker and easier with SD-WAN.