What is Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN)?

What does SD-WAN do?

SD-WAN stands for Software-Defined Wide Area Network. It is a networking technology that simplifies the management and operation of a wide area network (WAN) by decoupling the network hardware from its control mechanism.

An SD-WAN uses software to control and optimize the routing of network traffic over multiple network paths, including broadband internet connections, private WANs, and cellular networks. This allows organizations to leverage multiple network paths to improve application performance, increase network agility, and reduce costs.

Some of the key functions of an SD-WAN include:

  • Dynamic path selection: SD-WANs can automatically route traffic over the best available network path based on policies that prioritize certain applications or types of traffic.
  • Bandwidth management: SD-WANs can monitor network performance and adjust bandwidth allocation in real-time to ensure that critical applications have the necessary bandwidth to operate smoothly.
  • Security: SD-WANs can include built-in security features such as firewalls, VPNs, and intrusion prevention systems to protect the network from cyber threats.
  • Centralized management: SD-WANs are typically managed from a central location, allowing network administrators to easily configure, monitor, and troubleshoot the network.

Overall, software-defined wide area network technology offers organizations greater flexibility, scalability, and control over their network infrastructure, while reducing costs and improving application performance.

What are the three main components of software-define wide area network?

The three main components of an software-defined wide area network are:

  1. Edge devices: These are the physical or virtual devices that are deployed at the edge of the network, typically at branch offices or remote sites. Edge devices can be routers, switches, or dedicated SD-WAN appliances that use software-defined networking (SDN) to manage network traffic and connectivity.
  2. Centralized management: SD-WAN solutions typically include a centralized management platform that allows network administrators to configure, monitor, and troubleshoot the network from a single location. This platform can be cloud-based or on-premises and provides a unified view of the network, including traffic flows, bandwidth utilization, and application performance.
  3. Orchestration and automation: Software-defined wide area network solutions use orchestration and automation tools to streamline network operations and reduce manual configuration tasks. These tools can automate tasks such as configuration changes, policy enforcement, and security updates, and can help organizations manage their network more efficiently.

Overall, these three components work together to enable software-defined wide area network's key features, such as dynamic path selection, bandwidth management, and security. By decoupling network hardware from its control mechanism, SD-WAN allows organizations to optimize their network performance, improve application delivery, and reduce costs.

What is an example of SD-WAN?

There are many software-defined wide area network vendors in the market, each with its own approach and features. Here are a few examples of SD-WAN solutions:

  • Cisco SD-WAN: This is a comprehensive SD-WAN solution that offers dynamic path selection, zero-touch provisioning, and integrated security features. It also includes an analytics dashboard that provides insights into network performance.
  • VMware SD-WAN: VMware's software-defined wide area network solution uses a hybrid architecture that combines MPLS, broadband, and LTE networks to optimize application performance. It also includes a centralized management platform that simplifies network operations.
  • Fortinet SD-WAN: Fortinet's software-defined wide area network solution offers advanced security features such as intrusion prevention, web filtering, and sandboxing. It also uses intelligent routing algorithms to optimize network performance and ensure application availability.
  • Silver Peak SD-WAN: Silver Peak's software-defined wide area network solution includes features such as WAN optimization, traffic shaping, and path conditioning. It also supports cloud-based management and automation.
  • Versa SD-WAN: Versa's SD-WAN solution includes advanced routing and security features, as well as an integrated software-defined security (SD-Security) stack. It also supports multi-cloud connectivity and includes analytics and automation capabilities.

These are just a few examples of the many software-defined wide area network solutions available in the market. Organizations should evaluate their specific needs and requirements before selecting an SD-WAN solution.

What is SD-WAN vs. MPLS?

Software-defined wide area network and MPLS are two different networking technologies that organizations can use to connect their branch offices to the main corporate network. Here are the key differences between software-defined wide area network and MPLS:

  • Network architecture: MPLS uses a circuit-switched network architecture, which means that each site is connected to the network via a dedicated physical circuit. SD-WAN, on the other hand, uses a packet-switched network architecture, which allows multiple sites to share a single physical connection and dynamically allocate bandwidth based on application needs.
  • Cost: MPLS can be expensive, as it requires dedicated circuits to connect each site to the network. SD-WAN, on the other hand, can use cheaper broadband internet connections to connect sites, reducing the cost of the network.
  • Network performance: MPLS provides predictable and reliable network performance, as it uses dedicated circuits with guaranteed bandwidth and low latency. SD-WAN, on the other hand, can provide comparable network performance by using multiple broadband connections and dynamically routing traffic over the best available path.
  • Flexibility: SD-WAN is more flexible than MPLS, as it allows organizations to add or remove sites more easily and adjust network bandwidth and configuration in real-time. MPLS, on the other hand, can be more difficult to modify, as it requires physical changes to the network.

Overall, software-defined wide area network and MPLS offer different benefits and trade-offs, and organizations should evaluate their specific needs and requirements before deciding which technology to use. Many organizations are adopting a hybrid approach that combines both technologies to maximize the benefits of each.

What are two major weaknesses of software-defined wide area network?

While software-defined wide area network offers many benefits over traditional WAN architectures, it also has some weaknesses that organizations should be aware of. Here are two major weaknesses of software-defined wide area network:

  • Security risks: SD-WAN uses multiple network paths, including public internet connections, which can increase the risk of cyber-attacks. While many SD-WAN solutions include built-in security features such as firewalls and VPNs, they may not be sufficient to protect against all threats. Organizations should ensure that they have a comprehensive security strategy in place to protect their network and data.
  • Complexity: While SD-WAN promises to simplify network management, it can also introduce complexity. SD-WAN requires specialized skills and knowledge to deploy and manage effectively, and organizations may need to invest in training or hire additional staff to manage the network. In addition, the use of multiple network paths and dynamic routing algorithms can make it more difficult to troubleshoot network issues.

Overall, while software-defined wide area network has many benefits, organizations should carefully evaluate their specific needs and requirements and consider the potential risks and challenges before adopting the technology.