Why are SD-WANs taking off? Because they are secure, affordable and easy to use

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This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.

Software-defined Wide Area Networking is red hot.  It is safe to assume that, going forward, every multi-location business will rely on SD-WAN for a cost-effective, high-quality, unified network solution.

In fact, IDC recently released a report predicting SD-WAN revenue will reach $6 billion in 2020. Why?  Because SD-WANs are secure, affordable and easy-to-use. Those three magic words are enough to turn any CEO’s head, and the benefits go well beyond that. SD-WANs address a confluence of issues that multi-location businesses are facing right now.

Here are the top five reasons businesses need to consider an SD-WAN solution:

1.  Bandwidth. As more businesses move towards public and private cloud models, bandwidth needs are increasing. SD-WANs allow businesses to support their cloud deployments across multiple locations without being gouged for the required bandwidth. The additional bandwidth also allows network managers to say “Yes” to more applications that are competing for access to the WAN.

2.  Price flexibility. Businesses can deploy high bandwidth access at a fraction of the cost of legacy circuits and count on the Service Levels they’re used to on traditional networks. In most cases, multiple higher bandwidth links can be deployed at a cost savings.

3.  Disaster recovery. Using the savings, multiple unique circuits can be installed and SD-WAN technology offers true disaster recovery solutions over varied diverse infrastructure (copper, coax, wireless, fiber, etc.).

4.  Secure networks. At the base level, an SD-WAN is a point to point communication environment where VPN tunnels are built to transport payloads from a centralized orchestration platform.  Those VPNs are encrypted and can overlay private networking and IP address schemes adding additional security to the WAN over public internet access circuits.

5.  Analytics and Management. SD-WANs are managed via a central orchestrator that enables quick and easy management across thousands of devices.  This orchestrator can be accessed via APIs for northbound integration with other management, reporting, provisioning and network aware applications.  The Layer 7 application awareness gathers amazing amounts of data providing real-time and historical reporting at your fingertips, giving priority across the network to any application is a point and click process. Gone are the days of struggling with NetFlow and other massive and time consuming traffic monitors.

How businesses are deploying SD-WAN

More and more organizations are transitioning to a Hybrid WAN environment on their way to a full SD-WAN deployment. IDC predicts that this shift towards Hybrid WAN will see a significant boost in the next 12-18 months. By shifting to a Hybrid WAN environment, organizations can deploy SD-WAN technology at troubled or test locations and have them integrate into the existing WAN. Once they feel confident and comfortable with the technology they can roll it out to the rest of their location as contracts and staff allow. This strategy actually speeds up adoption by avoiding a deployment learning-curve across the organization.

Once the technology has been deployed, it’s easy to extend the SD-WAN to cloud providers and grant secure traffic offload as well as end-to-end Quality of Experience for those cloud applications (think AWS, O365, Azure etc.). The software defined nature of the technology makes the connection easy, offering organizations some unexpected benefits, including the ability to audit a cloud provider’s bandwidth usage invoice, managing remote access to cloud applications and allowing the CISO to sign off on moving an application to the cloud (as a result of the managed private network service extended to the cloud provider via SD-WAN).

There is also a fit for SD-WAN at those locations where big bandwidth is needed and T1s are not in the budget. Multiple low cost links can be aggregated for combined bandwidth and service levels can be achieved using the technology.

Where SD-WAN is headed

All of these business concerns and added benefits are driving SD-WAN deployments forward, but it’s important to look at the big picture. There is a significant leap coming as SD-WAN, SDN, NFV and vCPE all move quickly towards a unified management and deployment scheme.  SD-WAN is the beginning of the movement as there are the most obvious gains available (bandwidth, price, business continuity, security and application layer management).

This shift will mean virtual network micro-segments being deployed in data centers today will be easily extended to office LAN environments and remote users providing application specific networks. Firewall and security schemes for applications will be supported by a unique network segment per application. As hyper-convergence continues, these virtual networks and applications can all live in the same infrastructure.

SD-WAN is a game changing technology in the network services world and is the first step towards fully unified cloud, WAN, LAN and remote access solutions.