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What is the meaning of SD WAN?

Written by Robert Sturt

Robert Sturt is Managing Director of Netify, an SD-WAN, SASE security & connectivity market network where you can login free to compare and shortlist vendors.

What is the meaning of SD WAN? SD WAN stands for Software-Defined Wide Area Network. Cisco first defined the term in the 1990s, representing an evolution of network technology that has been present since the 1930s. Software-defined networks are controlled by software, not hardware - this is perhaps the differentiation between next-generation and legacy networks.

When networks are deployed using a software approach, it creates agility and faster deployment across network architecture and ongoing features to improve capability.

What does SD WAN mean for Enterprise business?
  • Ability to access public cloud resources from Azure, AWS and Google.
  • Zero touch fast deployment to users and sites within hours.
  • Easy out of the box configuration of policies.
  • Ability to self manage changes.
  • Ability to deploy standard SASE security policies to users.
  • Intelligence to make network routing decisions based on network conditions.
  • Cost reduction vs MPLS networks.

SD WAN can also be used with SDN (Software Defined Networks), which results in the ability to automate (commonly know as orchestration) configuration of WAN services with ZTP (Zero Touch Provisioning). This combination offers benefits which include reduced costs and automation of network tasks. With the almost complete adoption of public Cloud, SD WAN is the enabler to making the most of any Internet connection in respect of features and intelligent path decisions. In the future, AI (Artificial Intelligence) will help to configure your network without the need to involve integrators or professional services.

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What is the meaning of an SD WAN orchestrator?

An SD WAN orchestrator is at the core of SD WAN and can help your business manage your network from one cloud-based central console. SD WAN orchestration works to deliver HQ, branch office, remote user and cloud (AWS, Azure and Google Cloud) configuration.

IT teams can take back control of all aspects of their enterprise wired and wireless networks by connecting employees to applications securely at any location in minutes. SD WAN is adaptable because, by default, the technology does not require hardware; network intelligence can be deployed to white box CPE or an end-users device with support for virtualisation in the cloud. It also means that SD WAN will operate with legacy equipment (Cisco is an example) without requiring replacement or overhauls. SD-WAN enables an organisation to connect their HQ building to branch offices using internet connectivity instead of expensive MPLS or VPLS leased circuits.

“IT teams can take back control of all aspects of their enterprise wired and wireless networks - connecting employees to applications securely at any location.”

SD WAN is blurring the lines across DIY, Co-Managed and Fully managed services. IT teams can do more with easy to use management interfaces.

What is the meaning of an SD WAN management server?

The SD WAN Management server is used to manage SD-WAN policy and settings. It is also responsible for managing your users' devices, network configuration rules, routing, and monitoring and reporting across traffic flows. The management interface is accessed via a web interface using SSH (Secure Shell).

To confirm, the SD WAN management Server has several responsibilities:

  • Collection and reporting of statistics about Enterprise application usage patterns.
  • Implementation of policies based on design requirements on a 24/7 basis.
  • The Web UI provides an easy way to configure user groups that provide visibility into how applications perform in real-time with graphical charts which illustrate latency trends over time.

The above benefits help when troubleshooting network performance issues (e.g packet loss, poor latency and jitter) as IT teams are able to view network status whenever required with automation of actions.

SD WAN SASE security and encryption is also configured by the management server, including remote user configuration and software deployment. SASE security and encryption is a key component of any successful SD-WAN deployment with some vendors building in SASE as a native component and others leveraging via 3rd party partners.

What is the meaning of SD WAN architecture?
  • The controller provides the routing function for applications delivered over SD WAN to remote sites, storing all policies for managing traffic at each branch.
  • Single pane of glass Increased scale with centralised control plane
  • Increased uptime in branch locations.
  • Topology dependent distributed architecture.
  • The software client, WAN edge device or virtualised WAN edge.
How can SD WAN help with remote locations?

SD WAN is capable of doing more with ultra high speed cellular broadband services such as 4G/5G and low cost satellite access as well as other types of Wi-Fi networks. The intent is to deliver good user experience so employees can get work done even when disconnected from traditional office networks. The benefits behind remote SD WAN technology includes massively increasing user productivity, security and application performance.

“The benefit behind remote SD WAN technology massively increases user productivity, security and application performance.”

SD WAN can do more with poor quality, low cost circuits by sensing packet loss or improving data transfer with technologies such as FEC (Forward Error Correction).

What is the meaning of SD WAN QoE (Quality of Experience)?

Quality of Experience, or QoE, is the measure of how satisfied a customer is with their network experience across multiple factors. This metric is used to judge the performance and quality of all components within your SD WAN architecture from roundtrip hop latency between sites through to authentication servers and application delivery controllers. In this way, you will have an accurate reflection of the experience when users access applications which helps improve service levels and support.

What is the meaning of Basic SD-WAN vs Business-driven SD-WAN?

A basic SD-WAN is a VPN service that's generally bought from a third party supplier and installed in your existing network. The capability to control bandwidth, security or routing functions will vary across vendors.

Basic SD WAN solutions usually cost less money upfront but may require additional licence upgrades as requirements grow. In contrast, Business Driven SD-WANs are fully-featured out of the box purpose-built hardware devices (or virtualised) for all core components: security, bandwidth management, failover, path selection and routing. With business-driven SD-WAN, the solution is comprehensive and includes application performance and SASE features that meet complex WAN requirements.

What is the meaning of SD WAN dynamic path selection?

Dynamic path selection, also known as DPS, provides the capability to select the best path based on available performance. This is done through constant monitoring of network conditions and routing messages to make sure that users and branch sites are using the fastest available route, no matter what type of circuit is being used (fixed broadband link like DSL or cable; cellular connections such as EVDO/EVDO+, LTE Advanced/LTE+ etc, satellite links). SD WAN features will keep track of all possible paths to maintain optimal performance at all times - if one circuit fails, another circuit can be used and selected depending on the configuration.

“Dynamic path selection, also known DPS, provides the capability to select the best path based on available performance.”

DPS is one of the central pillars of SD WAN. Sophisticated algorithms sense network conditions and select the best available circuits to maintain good network performance.

What is the meaning of SD WAN cost reduction?

SD WAN also allows enterprises to be more cost-efficient. They can remove costly MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) deployments while still maintaining granular visibility and control of the data flows. This is done by consolidating expensive bandwidth contracts to lower monthly costs across single or multiple Internet providers. Furthermore, legacy WANs can now be improved by applying new Software-WAN technology - a key innovation being pushed forward which refreshes and retains MPLS where required.


Robert Sturt Last Updated: 29.04.2021
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