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Top SD-WAN benefits and the case for deployment

Make the case for an SD-WAN implementation, and explore the benefits and main use cases for SD-WAN in enterprises, beyond traditional hybrid WANs.

For organizations considering software-defined WAN adoption, SD-WAN can offer internet connectivity advantages,...

like reduced cost and increased bandwidth, by alleviating concerns about internet reliability and security. Organizations with distributed workforces in remote and branch offices should consider SD-WAN adoption to implement hybrid WAN -- by combining MPLS and internet -- or internet-only connectivity.

SD-WAN uses software- and cloud-based technologies to simplify the delivery of WAN services to the branch office. SD-WAN uses a virtual overlay to abstract the underlying network connections, and this overlay helps simplify network operations. SD-WAN adoption lets IT and business managers deploy internet-based connectivity easily, quickly, reliably and securely. Resulting advantages include ubiquity, increased bandwidth, reduced costs and improved application performance.

Cost

Internet circuits -- like Ethernet, DSL or cable -- are typically one-third to half the cost of MPLS links at comparable speeds. Internet services also have the advantages of wide availability and rapid provisioning times, compared with MPLS.

To benefit from these internet-provided advantages, many organizations implement hybrid WAN architecture by dedicating MPLS links for mission-critical traffic and assigning internet connections for high-speed access to cloud- or SaaS-based applications, email, file transfers, storage and video applications. 4G LTE and the new 5G represent additional WAN connectivity options to include as part of SD-WAN architecture. These wireless options offer rapid provisioning, enhanced reliability (failover) and speed that is comparable to many wired WAN offerings.

SD-WAN benefits go beyond hybrid WAN

The cost and performance benefits of hybrid WAN architectures have been the main drivers behind initial SD-WAN deployments. As the technology continues to mature, SD-WAN benefits have advanced into a number of critical areas, including the following:

  • Cloud on-ramps. Most SD-WAN offerings provide shortcuts to the most popular IaaS and SaaS services, including AWS, Azure and Office 365.
  • Cloud-delivered security. SD-WAN offers sophisticated built-in network security, including next-generation firewalls, along with improved integration with the leading network security providers, such as Palo Alto Networks and Zscaler.
  • Traffic visibility. End-to-end traffic visibility -- across LAN, WAN and cloud -- enables administrators to rapidly diagnose application performance degradation.
  • Software-defined branch. SD-branch offers an integrated suite of branch network functionality, including SD-WAN, security, Ethernet and Wi-Fi.
  • IoT connectivity. SD-WAN can secure traffic to and from relatively unsecure IoT devices. It includes the capabilities to rapidly onboard large numbers of diverse IoT devices.
  • Application ecosystems. Open APIs enable the ability to customize offerings and to integrate third-party applications, including security and performance management systems.

SD-WAN is a highly competitive market, and Doyle Research expects rapid innovation in the breadth and depth of SD-WAN features to continue.

SD-WAN use cases

SD-WAN adoption is seeing significant growth in a range of verticals and company sizes. A couple of interesting SD-WAN use cases include the following:

  • Financial services organizations with a large number of remote or branch offices have initiated SD-WAN adoption to provide direct internet access at the branch for applications like guest Wi-Fi and employee access to cloud and SaaS applications.
  • Retail stores use SD-WAN to rapidly deploy connectivity at new stores and pop-up locations.
  • Construction companies and other organizations with temporary work locations are implementing SD-WAN architecture to enable secure and reliable internet connectivity to corporate data centers and the cloud.
  • Branch users relying on unified communications applications have deployed SD-WAN to reduce jitter and packet loss in voice and video traffic.
  • Service providers are also deploying SD-WAN technology to offer managed hybrid WAN services to their business customers.

A number of large, midsize and startup technology providers offer SD-WAN technology. Some of these providers include Aryaka, Cisco, Citrix, CloudGenix, Fortinet, Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Aruba Networks, Juniper Networks, Oracle, Riverbed, Silver Peak, Versa Networks and VMware VeloCloud. A wide range of service providers offer managed SD-WAN services, including AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, Masergy, Verizon and Windstream.

SD-WAN advantages make a solid argument for adoption

So, are the SD-WAN advantages enough to compel adoption? SD-WAN architecture is now a proven approach to connecting the WAN and offers solid advantages for distributed organizations with critical branch office operations.

Other SD-WAN benefits include business agility, increased security, improved application performance and lower bandwidth costs. IT organizations should consider implementing hybrid WAN architectures to capitalize on the performance and cost benefits of internet and wireless connectivity -- especially for cloud-based applications.

This was last published in February 2020

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