Virtualization has revolutionized the data center, and now the next step is revolutionizing the network. Central to the networking revolution is software-defined networking (SDN), which allows network administrators to virtualize their networking hardware and bring added agility and cost savings.
Although all networking of all types can benefit from SDN, one area ripe for adoption is the wide area network (WAN). SD-WAN, as software-defined WAN is called, can enable businesses to harness virtualization and reap the benefits not only of improved agility and cost, but also other benefits. Companies such as Viptela, VeloCloud, VaporVM, CLoudGenix, etc. are pushing forward with SD-WAN technology and giving businesses an easy adoption path.
SD-WAN is well-suited for cloud-centric and hybrid WAN environments. The SD-WAN approach to deploying and managing branch office connectivity is software-enabled and flexible.
How SD-WAN Works
SD-WAN abstracts the network into software instead of hardware, creating a network overlay and decoupling network services, such as VPN and firewall, from underlying hardware-attached WAN circuits. With this software abstraction layer, IT managers can control and manage their networks more easily than they are able to do when managing underlying WAN hardware. This network overlay provides a common interface across different physical components to ease the overall network administration and manage the delivery of business-grade applications across the enterprise.
In an age when much of an organization’s traffic flows from branch offices to the cloud rather than to corporate data centers, SD-WAN taps into all available network resources by dynamically directing traffic across all bandwidth options from MPLS to public broadband connections.
It is estimated by American marketing research firm Gartner that by 2018 some 30% of enterprises will use SD-WAN products and services in their branch offices. Another 10% will replace their WAN routing with SD-WAN-based path forwarding, analysts predict.
SD-WAN is available via two deployment models: as a hardware/software solution that IT departments can integrate into their existing infrastructure or as a managed service offered by WAN service providers.
The main goal of SD-WAN technology is to deliver a business-class, secure, and simple cloud-enabled WAN connection with as much open and software-based technology as possible. This can be used to deliver basic WAN connectivity, or it can be used for premium business services such as VPN, WAN optimization, and applications delivery control (ADC).
Advantages of SD-WAN
Here are five reasons why SD-WAN makes sense:
- Cost Savings With Automation – Using SD-WAN enables distributed enterprises to dramatically reduce IT Capex and Opex costs. Automation reduces truck rolls and the cost of installation, configuration, and ongoing maintenance of branch WAN infrastructure. Also, the abstraction of network functions into software reduces the hardware needed at branches; as a result, enterprises can realize huge cost savings as they significantly shrink Capex.
- Improved Transport Options
What SD-WAN gives businesses is true transport independence. Since the WAN is virtualized, it can take advantage of any transport protocol that is needed. This includes 3G, 4G LTE , MPLS, Internet, Ethernet, Serial or Wi-Fi. Businesses that use SD-WAN have total transport flexibility.
SD-WAN routing technologies can aggregate data transport over two or more WAN connections including MPLS, Metro Ethernet, cellular and broadband Internet connections. The types of underlying transport used in hybrid WANs becomes agnostic because SD-WAN technologies create a logical overlay to intelligently route data across multiple paths. Multiple connections can be used simultaneously, eliminating the need to oversubscribe connections that have traditionally functioned in an active/standby manner.
- Better Security
Unlike traditional WAN solutions, which handle security through multiple appliances at each branch office, SD-WAN can include all of these functions in-box and at lower cost. SD-WAN can integrate with a cloud web content filtering service, too, and offer malware defenses and botnet command-and-control intervention for every branch and remote devices.
SD-WAN provides centralized control and orchestration so that business and application-related policies can be applied to deal with changing network patterns and performance requirements. It also applies techniques such as dynamic path control and adaptive forward error correction and AES 256 encryption to ensure data integrity. SD-WAN communication is usually secured using IPsec, a staple of WAN security.
- Intelligent Pathway Control
One of the most important advantages of SD-WAN is that it can provide intelligent path control that steers traffic based on application. This traffic-forwarding capability can be set in place at the centralized controller level and then pushed out to all SD-WAN devices. Policies can be based on IP addresses, application profiles, port number, quality-of-service markings, time of day, or any other number of variables.
Besides the obvious benefits of WAN link aggregation, next-generation WAN technologies also leverage end-to-end network visibility and feedback in order to improve transmission efficiencies on the fly. SD-WANs can detect the fastest path (or paths) from source to destination in real-time and dynamically re-route packet flows across links to improve performance. Routing decisions are made based on data such as latency, load and types of QoS policies applied.
- Automatic Provisioning
Deploying WAN systems is so last year. SD-WAN enables businesses to send SD-WAN devices to branches un-configured. The device then can download its policy, crypto certificate and keys and automatically start to learn traffic patterns. Provisioning is dramatically easier with SD-WAN.
In a nutshell, many of the concepts underpinning SD-WAN (such as encryption, path control, overlay networks and subscription-based pricing) are not new. However, SD-WAN essentially wraps these technologies together, and presents them to enterprises as a new integrated offering. Additional enhancements include central controllers, integrated analytics and on-demand circuit provisioning, with some network intelligence based in the cloud, allowing centralized policy management and security
Enterprises and service providers have been searching for ways to lower their WAN costs, improve the performance of mission-critical applications, and adapt to the spread of cloud computing for years now. As a result of the fast-paced flow of business, the high demands of both customers and end users alike and the need for IT to do more with less, SD-WANs are poised for continued growth.
VaporVM is a cloud computing firm which operates across Asia and North America. Join us on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/company/vaporvm