What is SD-WAN?

What you should know about 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. It also drives the ability to securely store, share and work with sensitive data.

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

Increasingly, businesses are looking to software defined networking (SDN) technologies to streamline networking and optimize bandwidth when traditional networks are blended with cloud-based wide area networks, or WANs. SD-WAN, a type of SDN, may provide businesses with evolving networks an alternative to MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) circuits that are used to bridge legacy and contemporary protocols and data types. These circuits can become costly.

With SD-WAN (software defined wide area network), lower priority traffic can be sent over less expensive internet circuits. While there are other benefits, this functionality is particularly valuable to businesses with branch offices because it simplifies bandwidth maximization while also helping control IT costs.

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 are handled quickly from a central location. Security features available through the service provider help keep records safe. The redundancy afforded by SD-WAN assures business continuity should a power failure or other disruption occur at some point along the network.

Networking made simpler.

Demand for cloud and mobile technologies is going nowhere but up, taking with it expectations for application performance. Organizations must 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 for connection alternatives and tailored configurations made possible by SD-WAN.

Factors driving SD-WAN adoption. Source: Verizon webinar, "Simple, Secure Networking with SD-WAN," 2018.

A network manager has to make constant adjustments to deliver applications quickly, and with sustained uptime. 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. No onsite technician is needed at multiple locations to handle manual configurations.

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. Numerous manual operations and expensive circuits aren’t needed.

Clear the obstacles to a smooth deployment.

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

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 will 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-WANs include a range of security features. Depending on the specific provider, these may include advanced 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 a high priority, can offset a range of potentially ruinous intrusions 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 can place their companies well ahead of the competition in a few weeks’ time. Every day, more organizations across all industry sectors are taking the leap, and are experiencing the benefits. They’re no longer tied to the legacy provider’s path to the internet, their business communications have leapt into the 21st Century, and capital expenses have plummeted for equipment, connections and IT support.

Benefits of SD-WAN.

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

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

Maintained availability
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
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.

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 combines networking technologies such as private IP, dedicated internet, internet broadband and 4G LTE into a hybrid SDN. 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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