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SD-WAN is a software-defined approach to managing the wide-area network, or WAN.

Key advantages include:

  • Reducing costs with transport independence across MPLS, 3G/4G LTE, etc.
  • Improving business application performance and increasing agility.
  • Optimizing the user experience and efficiency for SaaS and public cloud applications.
  • Simplifying operations with automation and cloud-based management.

Why now for SD-WAN?

The traditional WAN

The traditional WAN function was connecting users at the branch or campus to applications hosted on servers in the data center. Typically, dedicated MPLS circuits were used to help ensure security and reliable connectivity. This no longer works in a cloud-centric world.

Today's IT challenges

Times have changed. As businesses race to adopt the use of SaaS/IaaS applications in multiple clouds, IT is realizing that the user application experience is poor. That is because WAN networks designed for a different era are not ready for the unprecedented explosion of WAN traffic that cloud adoption brings. That traffic causes management complexity, application performance unpredictability, and data vulnerability.

Further opening the enterprise to the Internet and the cloud exposes major threat and compliance issues. It is extremely challenging to protect the critical assets of an enterprise when applications are accessed by a diverse workforce, whose role access ranges from employee to partner, contractor, vendor, and guest. Enabling broadband in the WAN makes the security requirements more acute, creating challenges for IT in balancing the user experience, security, and complexity.

The new WAN

New business models drive the need for a new network model.

There is a new kind of WAN to address these challenges: SD-WAN. Software-defined WAN is a new approach to network connectivity that lowers operational costs and improves resource usage for multisite deployments. Network administrators can use bandwidth more efficiently and can help ensure the highest level of performance for critical applications without sacrificing security or data privacy.

What are the benefits of SD-WAN?

With SD-WAN, IT can:

  • Simplify management. As a centralized, cloud-delivered WAN architecture, SD-WAN makes it easy to scale across thousands of endpoints, whether they are in the branch, campus, or cloud. IT has the ability to automate zero-touch deployment globally, using a single management interface.
  • Improve the user experience. WAN optimization delivers optimal cloud application performance from multiple clouds to users anywhere. In the event of link failure or link degradation, application-aware routing can dynamically route traffic between dedicated circuits and secure Internet connections to drive constant delivery of business-critical applications. Additionally, businesses realize OpEx improvements by offloading expensive MPLS services with more economical and flexible broadband (including secure VPN connections).
  • Increase security. Threat prevention is enforced at the right place. SD-WAN architecture features distributed security at the branch level. Data does not have to travel back to the headquarters or data center for advanced security protection (such as a firewall, DNS enforcement, or intrusion prevention).

How does SD-WAN help IT?

The traditional WAN architecture was limited between enterprise, branch, and data center. As businesses adopt cloud-based application services in the form of SaaS/IaaS, their WAN architecture experiences an explosion of traffic accessing these globally diverse applications.

These changes in business models cause multiple implications for IT. Employee productivity is impacted by SaaS application performance problems. At the same time, WAN expenses rise with inefficient use of dedicated and backup circuits. IT is fighting the daily, complex battle of connecting multiple types of users, over multiple types of devices, to multiple cloud environments.

With SD-WAN, IT can deliver routing, threat protection, efficient offloading of expensive circuits, and simplification of WAN network management. Business benefits include:

Application experience

  • High availability, with predictable SLA, on all critical enterprise applications
  • Multiple hybrid active-active links for all network scenarios
  • Dynamically route application traffic to drive efficient delivery

Integrated security

  • Application-aware policies with real-time enforcement around network problems
  • Integrated threat protection
  • Secure traffic flow across broadband Internet

Cloud optimized

  • Seamlessly extend the WAN to multiple public clouds
  • Real-time optimized performance for Office 365, Salesforce, and other major SaaS applications
  • Optimized workflows for cloud platforms like AWS and Azure

Operational simplification and security

  • Single, centralized management dashboard for configuration and management of WAN, cloud, and security
  • Template-based, zero-touch provisioning for all locations
  • Detailed applications and WAN performance reporting for business analytics

Deploying SD-WAN

Cisco SD-WAN powered by Viptela

Cisco SD-WAN powered by Meraki

For lean IT teams, Meraki simplifies branch management and integrates threat management.