How does SDWAN work? An Introduction

Approximately 82% of business decision makers define SDWAN as an organizational priority as of 2021. As companies continue to increase their focus on flexible, versatile, and scalable technologies in today’s digitally-transforming landscape, SDWAN is becoming a table-stakes investment.

However, even as interest in this technology continues to grow, there are still people who don’t fully understand what SDWAN means, or why it’s necessary for business growth.

Today, we’re going to be exploring the basics of an SDWAN architecture, and how SDWAN technology works to improve business agility.

How Does SDWAN Work?

A Software-defined Wide Area Network (SDWAN) is a virtual WAN architecture which supports enterprises in leveraging a range of transport services for connecting applications and users. With SDWAN, you can programmatically configure and manage the connections between networks with a centralized ecosystem. This ensures companies can intelligently direct the traffic they need through the “Wide Area Network” (WAN) to trusted IaaS and SaaS providers.

To better-understand how SD-WAN works, it’s helpful to understand the functionality of the traditional Wide Area Network.

A Wide Area Network (WAN), is a connection between local area networks (LANs), separated by distance. Classic Wans based on conventional routers weren’t designed for the advent of cloud. Instead, they required users to backhaul all traffic from branch offices into a hub data center, where advanced inspection, security, and management services could be applied.

Delays created by backhaul practices mean companies have frequently dealt with lost productivity and limited performance results. Unlike the traditional router-centric architecture of the old-fashioned WAN, the SDWAN model supports applications hosted in on-premises data centers, private or public clouds, and SaaS services.

What is SDWAN? The Basics

The conventional router-centric model used with traditional WAN distributed the control function across all the devices in the network, and routed traffic based on ACLs and TCP/IP addresses. This model was secure, but inefficient and rigid for a flexible, cloud-based world.

An SD-WAN allows cloud-first enterprises to deliver better quality of experience to users, through a host of unique tools and features. An SD-WAN offers:

  • Centralized control: SDWAN offers a centralized control environment, often residing in a SaaS application on a public cloud. Control is decoupled from hardware to improve service delivery and SD-WAN appliances can follow rules delivered by the central control. This reduces the need to manage individual routers and gateways.
  • Multi-connection and transport: SDWAN gateways allow for hybrid WAN, allowing each gateway to enable various connections using different transports, like broadband internet, MPLS, LTE, and more. A VPN can be established for each WAN connection to increase security, and SD-WAN technology can span a diverse infrastructure.
  • Access to dynamic path selection: SDWAN comes with dynamic path selection, which allows users to selectively route traffic for one WAN link or another based on traffic characteristics or network conditions. SDWAN can even identify packets by user, application, destination, and source, and send them down the right path based on their needs.
  • Policy-based management: SD-WAN technology supports QoS and determines how dynamic path selection should steer traffic. This helps to minimize business interruptions and ensure the ongoing success of the communications ecosystem. Policies can be created to improve quality of service, create failovers, and minimize costs.

How Does SDWAN Solve Business Problems?

As times have changed, companies have begun to rely more heavily on SaaS and cloud solutions to enable agile, flexible ecosystems of technology. The traditional WAN is no longer suitable in this environment, but SDWAN can provide the flexibility and simplicity businesses need.

With SDWAN, companies can set up a hybrid environment for WAN management, finding the right balance between cost, performance, and reliability for their application traffic, using everything from broadband to MPLS. At the same time, the simplicity of SDWAN management means it’s easy to control complex networks and increase potential cost savings.

SDWAN even helps companies to manage the complex and unpredictable elements of managing their network. By monitoring the health of each WAN link and applying dynamic path selection, SDWAN can steer traffic down the best available path for each moment in the business lifecycle. Major benefits of SDWAN include:

  • Reduced costs with transport independence and flexibility across all connection types, based on your application or distinct network needs.
  • Improved application performance with dynamic path selection and increasing agility for teams connecting to the cloud.
  • Optimized user experience and efficiency for public-cloud applications and SaaS solutions growing more essential to business leaders.
  • Simplified operations with automated and cloud-based management, located in a central environment for remote access.

What’s Next for SDWAN?

As a modern tool for network management, SDWAN is rapidly gaining attention as one of the best solutions for cost-savings, agility, and better application performance. However, the technology, like many of the innovations businesses rely on today, is also evolving. New Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) platforms as a component of SDWAN are gradually gaining popularity.

The future of SDWAN with SASE promises a future where the functions of network and security point solutions can be converged into a global, unified, and cloud-native service.

If you are considering a move to SDWAN or changing your supplier then use the contact us button below and we can help you through that process.