SD-WAN vs WAN – The fundamental differences

SD-WAN is a software-defined networking approach that enables network traffic control functions to be performed from a single central location. Less infrastructure-dependent than a traditional Wide Area Network, SD-WAN is essentially a virtualisation of existing networking architecture that reduces the need for (or allows the complete elimination of) costly hardware such as MPLS circuits.

Traditional Wide Area Networks require configuration at local level – in other words, individual routers have to be configured separately as traditional WAN was never developed with cloud capabilities in mind. SD-WAN revolutionises this configuration process by allowing governance of network traffic, SLA enforcement, network monitoring and failover protocol to be managed and controlled from one location – typically a company’s head office.

 

Drawbacks of a traditional Wide Area Networks


The Cost

Traditional WAN often utilises expensive MPLS circuits which also feature heavy bandwidth restrictions. Additionally, MPLS requires a large number of Routers to be established and maintained in order to govern the network.

There are numerous cost implications to consider with every branch-level deployment of an MPLS network. Router acquisition, network support contracts, software license purchasing and ongoing operating and management costs are just some of the overheads you’ll have to contend with when choosing to operate such a setup.


It’s Datacentre reliant

A traditional WAN does not afford cloud access to individual branches. The practice of routing traffic through data centres in a ‘hub and spoke’ routing pattern can have serious implications in terms of network performance.


Lack of malleability

MPLS circuits may be highly secure but their rigidity makes the implementation of a ‘failover’ solution complex and expensive should infrastructure failure occur.


Unreliable Performance

Traditional WAN application traffic via the internet is often unreliable and lacks the robustness of performance required for data-heavy uses such as video conferencing.


Network governance involves serious legwork – literally!

The introduction of new security policies for example, will require the network administrator to handle and individually configure network devices. An expensive and time-consuming administrative task.


Why should I consider SD-WAN?

SD-WAN is an evolution of the way traditional wide area networks are set up and governed. Adoption of SD-WAN can be rolled out gradually for minimum disruption, and can be overlaid onto existing architecture without the need to implement any fundamental physical changes.


Reduced Circuit costs

SD-WAN makes use of more affordable connectivity options than MPLS, such as broadband and DSL. Such options can also enhance performance in use, as they aren’t hampered by tight bandwidth restrictions. Thanks to the flexibility inherent in SD-WAN you can continue to use MPLS circuits where available or where demanded by specific SLA agreements.


Centralised governance means reduced management costs

A single-pane-of-glass management interface located in head office means you can reduce the administrative burden for your IT team.

This central management platform also gives superior ‘at a glance’ visibility into all corners of the network.


Improved performance thanks to optimised traffic routing

Classify ‘business critical’ applications as ‘high priority’ and route important traffic around disruptive events to minimise down-time. Additionally, you can ‘throttle down’ low-priority applications to free up bandwidth for the most important traffic. Data packets are routed via the best available path at any given time to provide optimal quality of service and the provisioning of multiple pathways provides true redundancy capabilities.


It’s optimised for the ‘Cloud’

SD-WAN allows branches to access Cloud services directly as opposed to via the ‘hub and spoke’ architecture of traditional wide area networks. This allows for better performance without compromising security.


Reduced total cost of ownership

Migrating from Traditional WAN to SD-WAN can result in savings of up to 60%. Improved efficiency, lower circuit costs as well as reduced network management overheads are just some of the factors that contribute to the potential savings.


Conclusion

SD-WAN brings new levels of versatility, cost efficiency and ease-of-deployment to WAN. An ongoing evolution, as new communication technologies are developed and come to the fore over time, the capabilities and definitions of SD-WAN will similarly shift and evolve. While still a relatively new concept the benefits of SD-WAN are already clear to see, and you should consider this exciting technology as a logical evolution for your corporate network infrastructure.

 

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