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What is SD-WAN, and should I consider it?

by Lee Doyle
Doyle Research
Originally Appearing in TechTarget

Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions offer the benefits of Internet economics in terms of low-cost, high-bandwidth connectivity by alleviating concerns about Internet reliability and security. Organizations with distributed workforces in branch and remote offices should consider SD-WAN adoption to implement hybrid WAN (combining MPLS and Internet) or Internet-only connectivity.
What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN uses software- and cloud-based technologies to simplify delivery of WAN services to the branch office. Software-based virtualization enables network abstraction that results in simplification of network operations. It enables IT and business managers to deploy Internet-based connectivity (with its benefits of ubiquity, high-bandwidth and low-cost) easily, quickly, reliably and securely.
Internet economics

Internet circuits (Ethernet, DSL, cable, etc.) typically are one-third to half the cost of MPLS links at comparable speeds. Internet services also have the advantage of wide availability and rapid provisioning times compared to MPLS. Many organizations are implementing hybrid WAN architectures — with MPLS for mission-critical traffic, and Internet for high-speed access to cloud- or SaaS-based applications, email, file transfers, storage and video applications.
Early SD-WAN success stories

Although in its early stages of adoption, SD-WAN technology is seeing significant implementation in a range of verticals and company sizes. A couple of interesting use cases include:

Retail and financial services organizations with a large number of branch/remote offices have implemented SD-WAN to provide direct Internet access at the branch for applications such as Guest Wi-Fi and employee access to cloud and SaaS applications.
Construction companies (and other organizations with temporary work locations) are implementing SD-WAN to enable secure, 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.
Communication service providers are also deploying SD-WAN technology to offer managed hybrid WAN services to their business customers.

Wide range of suppliers

SD-WAN is available through a number of large, mid-sized and start-up technology providers, including Cisco, Riverbed, Silver Peak, Talari, VeloCloud, Viptela, Nuage Networks, Pertino and CloudGenix.

So what is SD-WAN and who should consider it? It’s a new approach to connecting the wide area network that offers compelling advantages for distributed organizations with critical branch operations, including the benefits of business agility, improved application performance, and lower costs of bandwidth. IT organizations should consider implementing hybrid WAN architectures to leverage the performance and cost benefits of Internet circuits, especially for cloud-based applications.

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