Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SDWAN) continues to evolve and provide new features and advantages for any organization with the need to operate in multiple locations.
However, many organizations don’t take full advantage of its capabilities.
When wide area networks (WAN) were first developed, telecommunication companies provided dedicated Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) circuits to provide a direct link between two locations. Unfortunately, MPLS circuits are expensive and have finite bandwidth capabilities.
So, when a location’s needs grew, additional MPLS circuits had to be purchased to satisfy the bandwidth requirements. Then, the network had to be redesigned to accommodate the new circuits.
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SDWAN provides a software-defined network that offers many advantages over MPLS, since it is no longer tied to the hardware.
First, additional bandwidth can be provided without changing the network architecture.
SDWAN allows an IT manager to use multiple network links from the traditional MPLS to the less expensive internet broadband, 4G LTE, and even upcoming 5G mobile networks. This provide SDWAN with the ability to scale much faster, with less cost, and without the need to redesign the network with each change.
Second, SDWAN offers improved visibility.
SDWANs can inspect data packets at the application layer and identify thousands of specific applications. When routing traffic, low priority traffic such as YouTube videos can be routed to internet broadband while the high-priority company data can be routed to the MPLS circuits.
Third, the SDWAN offers significant options for management, security, deployment and routing.
However, before we go into the options in detail, lets put them into context by discussing the main use cases for SDWAN.
SDWAN Use Cases
The first use case is the original use case for the SDWAN, to provide branch-to-branch WAN. This still remains the most common application of the technology and the best understood of the use cases.
ISPs developed the second use case, Dedicated Network SDWANs, for companies that require high availability, low latency and massive bandwidth.
This option combines multiple dedicated circuits (MPLS, etc.) with the load-balancing, centralized visibility and policy management provided by the SDWAN. While this is a narrow use case, for those who need the bandwidth and reliability, it is a great option.
The third use case, application-centric SDWANs, is often used by cloud providers that need access to a customer’s on-premise data.
The connection needs to be secure, but the company owning the SDWAN network, the cloud provider, does not have access to the customer’s environment.
Using an application-centric SDWAN allows for the cloud provider to wrap the application data in their specific security and control options without affecting the customer’s network settings.
Neglected SDWAN Features
Although the basic uses for SDWAN remain fairly well understood, most organizations fail to make full use of SDWAN features, so let’s take a look at some advantages of just a few of them.
Zero touch provisioning addresses the deployment issue that many IT managers endure.
Instead of forcing IT professionals to travel to each office to set up and configure networking hardware, SDWAN devices only require the local personnel to plug the equipment into the network.
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Once plugged in, the SDWAN device will automatically make a connection to obtain setup instructions and configure itself. Such plug and play capability is one reason that SDWAN is expected to be more widely adopted worldwide.
Another key reason is security.
The silos for security and networking in some organizations can cause some organizations to overlook even the most basic features, such as integrated firewalls. But, SDWANs can greatly enhance and enforce key security initiatives.
The federal government and PCI regulations require encryption key rotation. While manual rotation can be burdensome, SDWAN settings allow for encryption key rotation as often as once per minute without interrupting traffic.
Microsegmentation can be a critical tool that prevents attackers from spreading through the network. And, SDWANs can support end-to-end microsegmentation.
Not only can a SDWAN implement a financial department’s microsegmented network across four separate offices and a cloud data depository, it can also connect to a central policy server to quarantine one of the branch offices if it is under attack.
Merging companies or municipalities are two examples of organizations that seem like one entity, but may require segregation of internal networks.
For example, the police department and the mayor’s office should have separate network traffic for compliance, security, and conflict of interest reasons.
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SDWANs support multiplexed VPNs, which allow for virtual routing and forwarding (VRF) for as many as 16 virtual VPNs on a single physical WAN link. By setting policies traffic for different departments or divisions, any organization can be fully segregated to support internal, security, and compliance policies.
SDWAN capabilities also go beyond simply routing and segregating traffic.
A SDWAN’s application detecting capabilities allow for it to not only route traffic-by application, it also allows for the collection of detailed data and audit logs so an IT manager can analyze performance, narrow down problems when troubleshooting, and project long-term network capacity needs.
Considerations when Implementing SDWAN
Many organizations are implementing SDWAN solutions, and IDC predicts that the SDWAN market will reach $4.5 billion by 2022. However, some considerations must be made to promote a successful implementation.
Not only is each organization unique, but each location can have different, specific needs as well. When considering a SDWAN solution, the implementing team must analyze the connections, the bandwidth needs, the applications, monitoring requirements, and the transport plan to make sure the it can match or exceed the current capabilities while minimizing costs.
This is also an excellent time to consider changes to the status quo.
Do you currently run traffic from branch offices through an MPLS in a central office, just to access a database that has been moved to the cloud? Believe it or not, some organizations often preserve legacy network routing simply because of a lack of internal communication and momentum.
Also, consider which type of SDWAN you want to implement. Hardware-based SDWANs have nice zero-touch features, but it may be more practical for you to launch a virtual appliance in that branch office instead.
Perhaps your organization would prefer outsourcing. Many ISPs and service providers also provide SDWAN as a service.
If you would like help understanding your options, planning upgrades, implementing SDWAN, or securing your existing networks, contact us today.
If your team is ready to make adjustments, but you’d like some guidance, we’re here to help! Consult an IT expert at Ideal Integrations.
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