If you like to stay updated on the latest developments in networking technology then you’ll probably have heard of SD-WAN (or Software-Defined Wide Area Network), but you may not know quite what it is or what it’s capable of doing. In fact, you may have even heard some contradictory information about this tech – there’s a lot out there!
In this article, we’ll parse out the facts from the fiction and explain exactly what SD-WAN can (and can’t) do for your business.
What Is SD-WAN?
So, what does the acronym really mean? Well, let’s start with Wide Area Network: a WAN is a number of devices connected over a geographical area of any size, whether that’s a different continent or a different building on your street. Even the internet is a WAN!
In relation to your business, a WAN tends to serve as a hub for servers and other necessary networking devices, cloud services, offices, and more. Within a WAN, there are typically smaller local area networks (or LANs) that transform into WANs when connected to the internet. This then means that resources located centrally can be made accessible across the entirety of the WAN – even software and central systems.
What Can SD-WAN Really Do?
SD-WAN doesn’t actually alter anything to do with your WAN itself; instead, it places an overlay on top of the network that provides an extra control system, which you can access with a piece of software compatible with all the devices within your network. This means you don’t need someone in the office to work on network devices – with the remote control of the network, you can make changes no matter where you are.
This is obviously super convenient for IT professionals who can spend far less time traveling around to check on networks in person, but can it have a similarly huge impact on your business? Let’s answer some common questions to clarify what this tech can achieve!
Will SD-WAN Make MPLS Systems Obsolete?
Many people with an interest in networking tech are hopeful that SD-WAN could replace the costly MPLS systems that lots of businesses currently rely on. MPLS – or Multi-Protocol Label Switching – is an efficient method used in high-performance networks of dynamically altering the paths that data travels down. This allows high-priority data from mission-critical applications to be taken down the best possible route, whereas less important data can be made a lower priority; this keeps your network running smoothly at the most vital moments.
While SD-WAN does provide a similar function known as a managed Class of Service (CoS) system that lets the network prioritize data traffic, it’s far from being the same thing. MPLS is a part of your infrastructure that allows for much more than small alterations to priority, and SD-WAN is only able to place an overlay onto that infrastructure. So, unfortunately, it isn’t time to wave goodbye to MPLS systems quite yet!
Can SD-WAN Allow Your Business To Immediately Expand To New Sites?
It’s understandable that any business owner would want this to be a reality – getting new locations online and hooked up to your network can be a nightmare, and being able to do it entirely remotely would be a dream come true. Sadly, though, because SD-WAN can only reconfigure the hardware, you still need a way to get the hardware in place for the overlay to do its job. SD-WAN can be extremely helpful if the hardware’s already set up, but without that existing infrastructure, you’re still at the mercy of circuit installation times and costs.
Does SD-WAN Allow For Quick Bandwidth Management?
There are lots of claims out there from SD-WAN providers about the incredible quality of service these systems can provide, particularly in contrast to ways of handling more traditional wide area networks.
However, a lot of this hype is, unfortunately, only hype – while SD-WAN solutions might be able to improve your quality of service, lots of the changes they can make are available through other techniques too. Because of this, you might actually get more from simply making sure that your existing infrastructure is as efficient as it can be; in fact, this should be done regardless of whether you want to introduce an overlay!
So although SD-WAN can help you get more from your current network system, it’s best to adjust the actual hardware to create new possibilities first.
Could SD-WAN Improve SaaS (Software as a Service) End User Experiences?
If your business makes use of Software as a Service application, you may find that SD-WAN is convenient as a central location that ensures each satellite operation can reach each application with the correct priority and speed. When you’re using real-time applications, you have to be sure that they’re running as well as they can, especially for the sake of end-users and customers.
Keeping on top of WAN issues that arise from SaaS applications without having to have someone come to the office could prevent dreaded downtime. But every business is different, and the benefits of SD-WAN with these applications are highly dependent on the amount that you use in your daily company operations.
What Can SD-WAN Bring To Your Business?
Because your business is unique, with networking needs unique to them, you might find that many of the points in this article matched your situation perfectly, while others would never have occurred to you! That’s why it’s good to do some more research independently – particularly as these benefits are highly dependent on your networking situation. If you’re already working with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) who is on top of making sure your network runs as smoothly as possible, then you might not need the additional help of SD-WAN.
But if you’ve found that your IT team is finding it difficult to jump between sites and that it’s taking time away from their more vital work, they’ll likely be happy to hear that you’ve brought SD-WAN into the mix!