Demystifying the Architecture of SD-WAN: A Comprehensive Guide

SD-WAN provides centralized control functionality to manage networks from a single portal. It simplifies network management, reduces hardware costs, and minimizes the number of routers that need to be installed at each branch office location.

Traditional WANs can introduce latency that degrades application performance. They also lack scalability and can’t prioritize business-critical applications.

WAN Optimization

SD-WAN optimizes network performance by creating a virtual overlay that improves WAN infrastructure without requiring additional hardware or changing existing routing protocols. The WAN optimization component uses physical and virtual appliances to perform data deduplication, data compression, application traffic prioritization, and link bonding (to combine MPLS with broadband internet, LTE, or other connections).

With these tools, the architecture of SD-WAN is designed to make the most of existing transport media to reduce costs and deliver high-performance levels. The resulting flexibility allows the WAN to use the public Internet for less critical applications, saving more expensive leased MPLS circuits for latency-sensitive applications. It also enables branch offices to connect to the corporate network over less costly broadband internet connections, reducing overall WAN bandwidth costs and improving resiliency.

Ultimately, the benefits of WAN optimization are improved application performance, lower resiliency costs, and reduced operating expenses for IT teams. Operations and IT teams can now concentrate on driving business growth while meeting user expectations. It is a major benefit of SD-WAN and can result in significant ROI, especially when combined with different capabilities in the more comprehensive SD-WAN platform.

WAN Security

WAN security is vital to SD-WAN because it protects the business network from unwanted traffic and attacks. Traditional WAN architectures depend on backhauling traffic, including that destined for the cloud, from branch offices to a central internet gateway, which introduces latency and impairs application performance.

However, an SD-WAN can create multiple software-based connections to a network, data center, or cloud. Using different connection types (including MPLS, broadband internet, LTE and 5G, virtual private network, and public Internet) to route traffic, an SD-WAN provides more reliable connectivity at lower costs.

Additionally, a business-driven SD-WAN can handle a complete transport outage by automatically switching to another path and providing sub-second failover without interrupting applications or users. It is possible because an SD-WAN is not dependent on a single point of failure, and the ability to utilize multiple paths for connectivity is built into the solution.

Furthermore, a business-driven SD-WAN supports an automated policy-based framework propagated through a centralized control and management interface. IT teams can define, manage, and change business requirements across the WAN while eliminating operational overhead and improving user experience.

WAN Acceleration

The performance of WANs is crucial to business productivity. Yet, traditional WANs need help to deliver optimal application performance and suffer from latencies that cause users to lose confidence in mission-critical workflows.

WAN acceleration uses algorithms to optimize data transfer to help reduce data loss and bandwidth consumption. It improves network connectivity for remote and dispersed employees, ensuring high-quality applications run smoothly across the WAN.

By accelerating the speed at which data travels, WAN acceleration can dramatically cut costs. A WAN accelerator can also make real-time collaboration between distributed offices a reality. Imagine editing a document or brainstorming on a whiteboard in real time with coworkers across the globe. With WAN optimization, this reality is now reserved for large enterprises with enormous budgets and whole IT departments.

WAN Analytics

WAN optimization and security are essential, but network admins can’t make informed decisions without clearly understanding what’s running on the WAN. SD-WAN analytics provides comprehensive visibility into all aspects of network traffic, allowing administrators to identify complex networking trends that would be difficult or impossible to detect manually.

The WAN isn’t just a conduit for business data; it’s also a valuable source of information about the organization, including which applications are being used and how much bandwidth each uses. This type of network intelligence can help enterprises improve the quality and cost of connectivity for employees at branches, headquarters, and remote locations.

While a basic SD-WAN can direct traffic on an application basis down a single path, advanced solutions offer greater transport independence that can automatically choose the best-performing way for each application. It enables the WAN to maintain consistent QoE, even during a complete transport outage, and avoid productivity-impacting delays and interruptions. The result is a more flexible, efficient, and secure WAN that delivers on the promise of digital transformation.

WAN Integration

Today’s cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and mobile devices can overtax traditional networks. SD-WAN adds a virtual overlay to help optimize network performance and provide increased security while connecting remote locations to your corporate data center.

A centralized controller manages the WAN overlay network and enforces security and routing policies. The controller can be physical hardware deployed on-premises, a virtual appliance deployed as a software app on universal customer premises equipment (CPE), or a virtual machine deployed in a cloud environment.

WAN integration helps improve application visibility and flexibility across the network by providing a single logical link that leverages multiple WAN connectivity services, including MPLS, direct Internet broadband, LTE, and more. It increases network bandwidth capacity and allows for more flexibility by prioritizing business-critical traffic over the best available path.

Secure connectivity ensures your employees can access your company data even if their Internet or cellular connection goes down or they move to a different location. The centralized control function in an SD-WAN also helps prevent sensitive information from falling through the cracks when transmitted over public links like Wi-Fi hotspots, ensuring data remains encrypted as it moves to and from your network.

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