What is SD-WAN?

With the hybrid work model now commonplace for many businesses, the enterprise perimeter has expanded. Users and devices are no longer restricted to specific locations and apps are distributed across multiple cloud networks. As a result, security requirements have evolved. However, while it’s vital to protect the critical assets of an enterprise when applications are accessed by a dispersed workforce, it’s also extremely challenging for security professionals. Businesses need to be able to provide secure, high-performance access to everyone and every device, regardless of location. This is where SD-WAN comes into play, ensuring secure, reliable connectivity for every site, cloud, user, and device.

What is SD-WAN?

While a traditional WAN connects users at one location to applications hosted on servers in a data centre, this doesn't work in a cloud-centric environment. Traditional solutions lead to complexity, unpredictable performance, compliance issues and data vulnerability. A software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN), on the other hand, is a virtual service that connects and extends enterprise networks over large distances. 

SD-WAN addresses the challenges of traditional solutions by using software to control connectivity, management, and services between data centres, remote offices, and cloud resources. One of the key features of SD-WAN is its ability to manage multiple connection types and to segment, partition, and secure the traffic that crosses the WAN. This results in lower operational costs, improved resource usage, and efficient bandwidth usage. SD-WAN aims to ensure performance without sacrificing security or data privacy. 

How Does SD-WAN Work?

Traditional WANs use a physical router to connect users to applications hosted in data centres. Each router has a data plane to hold information and a control plane to direct the data. A network engineer will write rules and policies for each router, a time-consuming and error-prone process. With SD-WANs, the control and management processes are separated from the underlying network hardware and can be configured and deployed as software, thereby giving users in remote locations access to corporate applications, services, and resources. A central control plane means that network engineers can write rules and policies and then deploy them across an entire network. Meanwhile, the SD-WAN also monitors the performance of connections and manages traffic to ensure high speeds and optimise connectivity. 

The Difference Between SD-WAN, MPLS, and VPN

SD-WAN is a formidable solution for providing secure access to network resources and offers distinct differences from alternatives, such as MPLS and VPN: 

  • Traffic management - SD-WAN facilitates the management of traffic across a network without having to return or backhaul traffic to a centralised internet security point in the data centre. This improves application performance and, in turn, productivity and user experience. 
  • Connection types - SD-WANs can manage multiple types of connections, including multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), broadband, VPN, LTE and more, as well as supporting applications hosted in data centres and public and private clouds. SD-WANs can then route application traffic over the best path in real time.
  • Cost-efficiency - while solutions such as virtual private networks (VPNs) offer a secure connection for remote workforces, they don't scale well for large workforces. The complexity and latency of VPNs soon outweigh the cost benefits. In contrast, SD-WANs leverage the cloud to deliver optimised performance features such as quality of service (QoS) and application routing. 

The Advantages of SD-WAN

The main principle behind SD-WAN is to simplify the way businesses create new links to their networks, applications, and services, manage the way those links are used and save money in the process. SD-WAN offers many business benefits, such as:

  • Simplified management - with a single, cloud-based, centralised management centre, new users, devices, or sites can be quickly onboarded.
  • Improved visibility - real-time performance metrics and bandwidth forecasting deliver improved visibility and ensure a faster mean time to resolution.
  • Automated troubleshooting - AI-driven operation drives insights into traffic, policy violations and anomaly detection, 
  • Improved performance - SD-WAN delivers guaranteed performance across any device or application thanks to dynamic path selection as well as efficient access to cloud-based resources. 
  • Flexible deployment - physical hardware and virtual appliances can be easily deployed on-premises or in the cloud, regardless of location. 
  • Improved security - managers can create and update security rules in real-time as network requirements change. Meanwhile, integrated threat protection distributes security to all endpoints. 
  • Reduced costs - there is no need to backhaul traffic to a centralised data centre, making the process much more efficient and cost-effective than alternatives such as MPLS. 
  • High availability - SD-WAN delivers a predictable service for all critical enterprise applications ensuring productivity at all times, regardless of location. 
  • Optimised connectivity - SD-WAN can be seamlessly extended to multiple public clouds and offers optimised performance for applications such as Microsoft 365 and Salesforce and optimised workflows for cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure. 

How To Transform Your Network With SD-WAN?

Network transformation is a vital part of security transformation in today’s hybrid working environment. SD-WAN brings together zero-trust security with network optimisation to enable you to deliver secure, high-performance access to every user, device, site, and cloud. 

If you would like to find out more about SD-WAN, contact the cybersecurity experts at InfoTrust today for a consultation and SD-WAN demo. 

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