What is SD WAN?

What you should know about SD WAN and how it is a type of software defined networking.

For many growing businesses, bandwidth is king when it comes to getting—and staying—ahead of the competition.

It’s the engine that powers critical applications for customer service, product development, multi-location collaboration and most contemporary business communications—pretty much any application that is needed to drive business today. It also drives the ability to securely store, share and work with sensitive data.

When there never seems to be enough bandwidth to keep critical processes humming, and to properly serve remote staff, where is the budget-conscious business owner to turn? For these reasons, getting the most out of costly and quickly exhausted bandwidth is a high strategic priority for many business owners and network managers.

Increasingly, businesses are looking to software defined networking (SDN) technologies to streamline networking and optimize bandwidth when traditional networks are blended with SDN based wide area networks, or WANs. SD WAN, a type of SDN, may provide businesses with evolving network needs a smarter way to use their network connections. With SD WAN (software defined wide area network), lower priority traffic can be sent over less expensive internet circuits. SD WAN architectures allow companies to “mix and match” different network connections, including private MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) circuits, dedicated Internet broadband, and even wireless LTE or 5G to use these different circuits more efficiently.

While there are other benefits, this functionality is particularly valuable to businesses with branch offices because it simplifies bandwidth efficiency while helping control IT costs.

What are software defined networks?

Software Defined Networks is an efficient way of delivering network services. Instead of network services such as routers and security delivered as integrated hardware and software on a dedicated box—often referred to as a network appliance—the networking software is now just a virtual piece of software that can theoretically be run on any piece of hardware or cloud platform. This is what is called in the industry hardware and software disaggregation. It means that you are no longer dependent on the hardware to run your application.

There are four primary types of software defined networking (SDN):

  1. Open SDN uses open protocols to control the virtual and physical devices responsible for routing the data packets.
  2. Application Programming Interface (API) SDN uses programming interfaces to control the flow of data to and from each device.
  3. Overlay Model SDN creates a virtual network above existing hardware, providing tunnels containing channels to data centers. This model then allocates bandwidth in each channel and assigns devices to each channel.
  4. Hybrid Model SDN combines SDN and traditional networking, allowing the optimal protocol to be assigned for each type of traffic. Hybrid SDN is often used as a phase-in approach to SDN.

How do businesses use software defined networking?

One of the most common SDN applications is something called SD WAN or Software Defined Wide Area Network. SD WAN is a highly efficient way of using SDN to connect business networks for, among other uses, branch-office communications. Think of a building supply retailer with headquarters in Atlanta and warehouses in Dallas, St. Louis and San Diego. With SD WAN, order fulfillment and data backups can be handled quickly from a central location. Security features available through the service provider help keep records safe. Modern applications such as VoIP calling, videoconferencing, streaming media and virtualized applications require low latency and increase bandwidth requirements. Deploying an SD WAN solution enables businesses to customize application traffic flow and help ensure optimal network performance to meet these requirements. Software Defined Secure Branch (SDSB) is SD WAN combined with advanced security features, so your business can have the security it needs where it needs it without the need for a separate security appliance or firewall. 

Software defined networking using SD WAN made simpler.

Demand for cloud and mobile technologies is going nowhere but up, taking with it expectations for application performance where it is needed, whether that is at a branch location or on a customer’s mobile device. Organizations expect to reach more people in more places. At the same time, companies must do so faster and more reliably than ever before. To keep costs down and availability up, network managers are turning to the public internet combined with alternate connections using tailored configurations made possible by SD WAN.

A network manager is expected to make constant adjustments to tune the network to deliver applications quickly, and reliably. Software-defined operations enabled by SD WAN simplify this job because bandwidth can be dynamically distributed to any and all locations through a single interface. Bandwidth is easily moved from one path to another if, for example, a preferred route degrades. With SD WAN, bandwidth changes and congestion are easily managed as they occur.

When a WAN can be controlled centrally, as with SD WAN, the IT lead simply logs onto a secure interface to execute a wide range of operations in a matter of minutes. Because any policy changes needed are managed through a centralized management console, no onsite technician is needed to be sent to multiple locations to handle manual configurations. Numerous manual operations and expensive circuits aren’t needed.

Clearing the obstacles for a smooth deployment of software defined networking.

While the barriers to adoption continue to fall for SD WAN, some do persist. Chief among these are inertia, fears about service disruptions and a lack of understanding of the technology’s utility. These concerns can often be resolved with a little research. Experts offer the following tips to promote a smooth SD WAN deployment.

Don’t gut what’s already in place

Many business owners assume that SD WAN means a ground-up rebuild of the network. To the contrary, a well-established service provider can offer very low-touch implementations that allow businesses to keep what they’re already using while the new network is rolled out.

Test, and test again

Seasoned IT specialists and service providers appreciate the value of testing as SD WAN is implemented. They collaborate to schedule deployment phases that enable health checks to catch, kill or cure issues that arise along the way.

Keep security top of mind

SD WAN, and especially SDSB products, often include a range of security features. Depending on the specific provider, these may include advanced next generation firewall, encryption and threat-prevention features. Businesses also can set their own parameters around rules and norms for traffic across their networks. Targeting security as the new network is built, and assigning it as a high priority, can offset a range of potentially ruinous threats down the road.

SD WAN can move companies big and small into a new world of advanced business communications. Decision-makers should not fear change or delay making a move that could place their companies well ahead of the competition in a relatively short amount of time. Every day, more organizations across all industry sectors are taking the leap, and experiencing the benefits.

Benefits of SD WAN.

Reduced complexity with software defined networks

Centralized policy management enables unified standards for quality of service (QoS) and security across the network.

Increased efficiency using software defined networking

Data is routed based on each application’s requirements and current network conditions.

Maintained availability with software defined networking

Near real-time decisions can be made to redirect traffic to the service that is most suitable at any given time. Secondary network connectivity and inexpensive broadband allow for a cost-effective way to keep the network up and running.

Cost control while using software defined networks

Businesses can use premium connections when needed, and lower-cost routes when possible, for a lower cost of ownership. Low-cost internet connectivity can be used for noncritical applications, and for redundant bandwidth as needed.

How Verizon can help your business implement software defined networking.

Verizon provides an advanced SDN architecture that is built for growing businesses. Software Defined Secure Branch (SDSB) leverages secure dynamic connectivity on top of a transport-agnostic fabric to create a secure, flexible network hybrid that is fully managed by Verizon. It allows combining different networking connectivity technologies such as private IPdedicated internetinternet broadband and 4G LTE into an integrated network. This design allows organizations to specify multiple transit paths depending on application needs and network type.

Businesses can easily scale to meet the shifting demands for cloud-based services and mobile access. Verizon’s tested practices and processes, portals and platforms help businesses absorb the new technology without making drastic changes. A life-cycle management approach helps organizations develop a migration plan that accommodates changing priorities today and into the future.

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