SD-What? A Crash Course in SD-WAN

Fasten your seatbelts: We’re about to cram everything you need to know about selling software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WANs) into 500 words. 
What exactly is an SD-WAN? In short, it’s the most recent innovation in the evolution of multisite enterprise connectivity. Now, if you don’t have much experience selling this type of technology, don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it seems. To get a better understanding of this enterprise connectivity solution, let’s take a brief look at its evolution. 

How we got here

First, in the middle to late 1990s, disparate branch locations primarily connected to one another over the public Internet. This worked for a few years until the Internet became too congested and business applications began to suffer. To solve this problem, around 1999, enterprises began to deploy a technique called Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), which involves labeling data packets and transmitting them from router to router. Simultaneous with MPLS came dramatic improvements in bandwidth and security, as well as the emergence of new services like virtual private networks and Metro Ethernet. 
Despite the benefits of MPLS, though, the technology comes with some pretty significant drawbacks. For example, it’s very expensive and deployment can take several months. As a result of these inefficiencies, many businesses began relying instead on WAN solutions, which were more cost-effective than MPLS ones and able to process data faster.  

The software-defined approach to WAN 

WAN architecture took a quantum leap around 2009 with the emergence of software-defined everything. Consequently, businesses began turning to virtualization and software in their data centers to add flexibility to their environments. This strategy, when applied to the WAN, is called SD-WAN.
In a nutshell, SD-WAN involves connecting two or more local-area networks by way of virtualization. In an SD-WAN setup, the data plane becomes separated from the control plane of the network, which allows physical hardware, like routers, to be eliminated. This is perhaps the biggest difference between SD-WAN and earlier strategies like MPLS and WAN.

Here is a breakdown of the main benefits of SD-WAN solutions: 

More control over the WAN: Prior to the SD-WAN, transport paths had to be managed manually. This made it very difficult for network operators to control traffic. In an SD-WAN environment, though, all transport paths can be monitored and managed over a central hub. A network operations center in Cleveland, for instance, can use an SD-WAN system to perform maintenance on networks located all across the country, thereby reducing travel and solving problems faster. 

Less CAPEX and OPEX: One of the primary benefits of SD-WAN is that it eliminates reliance on bulky, expensive infrastructure. Traditional networking hardware can be replaced with cost-effective hosted software, which, in turn, frees up budgets significantly. Instead of spending money purchasing and maintaining core network infrastructure like servers and switches, businesses can pump funds into the customer development process. 

Dynamic provisioning: Up until the advent of SD-WAN, provisioning hardware was a major pain point for enterprises. The process of deploying and configuring hardware had to be done manually and could take months. In an SD-WAN environment, however, services can be provisioned almost instantaneously and from a central location. Services can be rolled out and set up on the same day, which is critical for consistency and security purposes. 

AVANT has the most robust portfolio of SD-WAN vendors. For more information, click here. 

SD-What? A Crash Course in SD-WAN

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