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Are SD-WAN and WAN optimization techniques merging?

WAN optimization techniques have helped maximize network throughput for years, while SD-WAN is relatively new. While the two concepts are separate, they can complement each other.

WAN optimization techniques have been around for the better part of two decades. The goal of WAN optimization is to maximize throughput from point A to point B. This can include techniques such as data compression, caching and quality of service, or QoS. Data caching is used to lower latency, but most of the other techniques are largely used to lower the overall throughput on a WAN link. Using these WAN optimization techniques allows an organization to push as much data as possible.

The primary benefit of software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) is it intelligently monitors two or more links between WAN connection points. It does this to determine the most efficient way of forwarding packets toward a destination at any given moment. Bottlenecks caused by overutilized links are not only avoided, but latency can be significantly reduced, as well.

Another SD-WAN benefit is the fact that administrators gain additional visibility and control over the applications that are being used across the WAN. This Layer-7 visibility goes well beyond the WAN optimization techniques that largely leverage manual QoS policies for application prioritization. The more dynamic and granular approach of SD-WAN allows for better application prioritization of available bandwidth.

The benefits of WAN optimization techniques and SD-WAN are clearly complementary. Both provide benefits that the other does not. It didn't take network vendors too long to discover that customers would be interested in leveraging optimization and acceleration, as well as intelligent path control. Most organizations would prefer a single SD-WAN offering that includes WAN optimization features, without having to add an additional optimization service. That's why SD-WAN products and services currently available integrate many WAN optimization techniques, with the added benefits of multilink path control and application visibility. Vendors that used to be primarily WAN optimization providers, like Riverbed Technology and Silver Peak Systems, have adapted to offer SD-WAN services. More vendors can be expected to follow suit.

Next Steps

SD-WAN stems from WAN optimization

How to choose the right WAN optimization techniques

With these four steps, prepare for an SD-WAN deployment

This was last published in March 2017

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