As cloud service and SaaS applications become more common, data transfer over WAN gets complicated due to multiple remote branches and sources. Software-defined vast area network (SD-WAN) is a dynamic solution for the problem and offers a more flexible network architecture than most traditional approaches.
This blog will explore all you need to know about SD-WANs, including their benefits, working principles, architecture, and more! Let’s get straight into it:
What is SD-WAN?
SD-WAN (stands for Software-Defined Wide Area Network) is a networking approach that uses SDN (software-defined networking) principles for the management and optimization of WANs (wide area networks). It separates the data and control plane and uses centralized control to transfer data securely from multiple data centers to the cloud.
A great thing about SD-WANs is their virtual WAN architecture that organizations can use to manage multiple connection types, including MPLS, wireless, and broadband. And it also can route traffic through the best possible path!
SD-WAN explained … again
If you did not get the gist of SD-WANs, this example could help you get to the bottom: Imagine that you want to share some pictures with your friends, but you will not walk up to their door each time you want to show them something. Instead, you have a shared storage space with your friend, accessed virtually by both. Think of it as cloud storage where you can save images.
But you need a way to connect your computer to the cloud storage: this is where SD-WAN comes into play. SD-WAN is a super-smart messenger that finds your data’s fastest and most efficient paths/routes. This way, you can connect to cloud storage and other remote data centers in an efficient and organized manner.
The SD-WAN architecture can be broken down into three main components:
- SD-WAN edge
- SD-WAN orchestrator
- SD-WAN controller
The edge is the device that connects to the network and could be anything from a branch office to a data center. It is an entry point to the network road.
The orchestrator manages and conducts traffic using different protocols and policies set by the operator in charge.
The controller is a central management/control point for the people in charge to monitor the network and create protocols and policies to help the orchestrator manage the network.
How does SD-WAN work?
Traditional WAN architectures need manual configurations, and the control function is distributed across all devices. This makes the approach inefficient, inaccurate, complex, and not particularly cloud-friendly. Instead, SD-WANs use a centralized control plane separate from the data plane. This feature makes SD-WANs much easier to manage.
Further, in contrast to traditional approaches, it uses software to manage data from various connection types and chooses the best paths for it to travel through. Data prioritization, compression for faster delivery, and encryption for security are key features of an SD-WAN.
SD-WANs market share: What stats are we looking at?
Traditional approaches offer poor resource utilization and a more rigid and inflexible architecture. To combat this, the SD-WAN market size is increasing every day. The global market will grow to approximately $8 billion in 2026. Here is a graphical representation of the global SD-WAN market size, according to which the 2023 SD-WAN market value projection is estimated at $800 billion by 2032.
What are some benefits that SD-WANs offer?
With the growing demand for SaaS and type applications, traditional WANs fail to provide an efficient and cost-effective way of managing traffic across an extensive network. SD-WANs simplify this conventional approach and offer an application a better quality of experience (QoEx). SD-WAN security is also a massive perk of the said architecture. Let’s look at the different benefits in a little more detail:
SD-WANs can prioritize critical application data and ensure that such critical applications run smoothly even during heavy traffic hours. This feature reduces general lag/delay and helps improve overall performance.
Since SD-WANs are much easier to manage than traditional network architectures, the general cost expenses are also lower. Companies can save up by not overspending to secure dedicated lines because SD-WANs can use other connection types like broadband. We can also scale WAN connections based on demand.
Efficient Cloud Connectivity
SD-WAN does not backhaul traffic to centralized locations and can optimize connections to cloud services based on their unique needs. These features and their dynamic nature help SD-WAN offer improved cloud connectivity and reduced lag.
No manual configurations
Unlike traditional WANs, SD-WANs are not time-consuming to set up and deploy because they do not require manual hardware configurations. Due to their dependence on SDN principles, the architecture can be configured remotely without complications.
Centralized control plane
SD-WANs separate the data and control plane and instead implement a centralized control plane that makes it much more efficient to manage the WAN. The network can be monitored, controlled, and optimized from this central point using effective protocols. This feature helps reduce complexity.
SD-WAN security is an essential factor in why they are so popular today. They use efficient firewall features, encryption technology, and traffic segmentation to improve network security. Internal and external security threats (DDoS, hacking, data theft, malware attacks, etc.) can be effectively mitigated by the additional security features an SD-WAN offers.
Even if there is a primary link failure, the SD-WAN can efficiently switch to backup connections. This ensures that employees will always have access to their data regardless of their physical location and network connectivity. Thus, SD-WANs help achieve seamless data access and reduced downtime.
SD-WAN’s scalability and adaptability make it easier for a business to expand and add new locations because it would also extend to accommodate these new points. This helps companies to keep up with growing demands.
SD-WAN vs MPLS
|SD-WANs are easier to manage||MLPS are more complex to manage|
|SD-WAN can manage multiple connection types, including MPLS, wireless, and broadband||Use MPLS links or leased lines|
|Enhances application performance||Performance is comparatively worse|
|Uses encryption feature||Does not use encryption by default|
|Comparatively cost-effective||More expensive|
|Faster set-up using software configurations||Manual configurations take time|
|Scalability is better||Scaling would need careful planning|
|Can handle the high traffic volume||Not designed for high-traffic volume|
|Routes traffic through the best possible path||Has a predetermined way for transmission|
|Does not backhaul traffic||MPLS backhaul traffic|
SD-WAN Vs VPN: Which is better?
Well, the best pick depends on what kind of solution you are looking for. If you want flexibility and optimized performance, SD-WAN would be a good choice since it uses dynamic routing and offers support for different connection types. However, its traffic optimization can create unwanted complexities and hike up the overall solution cost.
If you are on a budget and need a secure remote access solution, VPN is the way to go. A trusted VPN service, like PureVPN, can help organizations encrypt network traffic and set up a secure environment even for remote employees.
We can even integrate a VPN service across each WAN in an SD-WAN architecture. This way, the data between SD-WAN endpoints is now encrypted, and this helps to add an extra security layer to the said infrastructure.
Better flexibility, enhanced performance, and improved security make SD-WANs preferable over traditional networking approaches. It prioritizes critical application data and adapts to the fastest and most efficient routes in real-time.
Whether it is about managing different connection types or improving cloud access, SD-WANs offer a dynamic and cost-effective solution for simplified network management.