Does SD-WAN make sense for your business? Top 10 reasons you should move to SD-WAN now

Sep 28, 2021

Photo by ben o’bro on Unsplash

Does SD-WAN make sense for you?

If you are looking for a reliable, fast, agile, flexible, secure, and cost-efficient WAN, then probably SD-WAN makes sense for you.

In this post, we’ll go through ten different reasons why you should move to SD-WAN now. We’ll use traditional WAN links such as MPLS and the Internet to contrast the benefits of SD-WAN.

1.  Enable direct cloud access for the branch.

Wide Area Networks (WAN) have always been a critical component for businesses communications. But WAN architectures haven’t substantially evolved until organizations started to use the cloud for their day-to-day operations. The cloud is changing how businesses operate, and unfortunately, traditional WANs were never designed with cloud considerations in mind.

When a branch office using traditional WAN wants to access the cloud, the traffic gets backhauled to the headquarters data center to receive security and QoS policies. So regardless of the location of a branch office, the cloud traffic will always go to headquarters first. But backhauling all traffic, and especially the cloud-destined will ultimately affect a user’s experience and productivity.

With SD-WAN, the remote branch can directly access cloud resources without backhauling all the traffic to the core network. This direct access to the cloud is done by prioritizing cloud-based business-critical application traffic.

2.  Increase bandwidth capacity.

Although the Internet provided a simple and cheap WAN to connect remote business offices to the headquarters, it didn’t take long for the enterprise-size WAN to quickly consume all available bandwidth resources. With other more resourceful WAN links like MPLS, the application performance would also get compromised due to the branch’s WAN bandwidth limitations and the added latency for backhauling cloud-based application traffic.

With SD-WAN, enterprises can still use the Internet as a WAN link, but with the added flexibility to choose the appropriate bandwidth for the specific application. The type of transport (wired or wireless) can also be mixed based on the bandwidth availability or connections can be bonded to maximize bandwidth. For example, enterprises can choose a cheap bandwidth from a local ISP for non-sensitive traffic while still use MPLS for business-critical data.

SD-WAN also improves bandwidth provisioning to existing branch offices. In contrast to MPLS deployments, where increasing bandwidth can take a few weeks or up to a month.

3.  Prioritize traffic and route it through the most efficient path.

SD-WAN can prioritize business-critical traffic and real-time services by driving them through the most efficient route. This technique is referred to as traffic shaping or traffic steering.

SD-WAN should be properly configured to meet the business’s specific needs. The different headquarters-branch WAN lines can be either separated or combined in regards to the traffic type, business goals, limitations, and the quality and characteristics of the traffic. For example, certain WAN lines are prioritized for voice only, others for data. In addition, WAN connections can be combined to improve speed and redundancy.

SD-WAN sorts traffic into different priorities such as low, medium, or high. Then, it routes traffic through the appropriate and most efficient WAN path in terms of lower cost, policy, guaranteed bandwidth, and lower latency.

4.  Boost WAN and cloud access security.

The Internet is an insecure and slow WAN transport method. So organizations that don’t want their branch offices to transfer business-critical data via the Internet would backhaul all traffic to their core network. WANs backhaul all traffic to headquarters in order to enforce security policies. Although this approach guarantees a robust access control, it also compromises application performance and speed.

SDWAN lets you securely connect users to the headquarters’ application and at the same time, improve access to the cloud.

With SD-WAN, security policies can be enforced for each application class. The branch’s local Internet access can be broken into application traffic, so that headquarters remains protected from threats. In addition, SD-WAN also allows you to combine solutions like Secure Access Service Edge (SASE). A SASE-enabled SD-WAN solution provides a wide range of integrated security cloud-native services, including IPS, NGFW, AV, sandboxing, ZTNA/VPN, RBI, FWaaS, and more.

5.  Central management and monitoring.

With SD-WAN, you can manage and monitor traffic via a centralized WAN controller. SD-WAN uses central control functions to steer traffic intelligently and securely across any WAN link. This centralization makes management and monitoring for critical business services and applications easier.

In addition, SD-WAN also supports centralized configuration. When deploying new applications or enforcing a new QoS or security policy, all branch offices can be configured centrally within a matter of minutes. Rather than configuring each branch’s device separately, the centrally configured policies can be pushed immediately to a massive number of nodes, saving time, reducing attack surface, and avoiding human error.

6.  Improve network visibility and control.

Network visibility helps enterprises with large-scale networks be aware of the components and the data moving through. Having the entire visibility of the network provides organizations with more control, better traffic monitoring, network performance, and obviously security.

SD-WAN ensures end-to-end visibility and control into applications and the entire network infrastructure. The centralized SD-WAN management may use telemetry data collected from applications and networks along with analytics, to uncover end-to-end network insights.

This approach allows you to see real-time data from failures, customer experience, and application performance issues. In addition, having end-to-end visibility with SD-WAN allows you to forecast performance and plan for capacity.

7.  Automatic shift to the best available transport.

SD-WAN offers more cost-efficient connection alternatives to MPLS. As traffic types or volumes change, SD-WAN can be configured to automatically steer traffic to the appropriate WAN connection. For example, the branch-sourced Internet-destined application traffic can be sent directly towards the internet (without backhauling) using a local ISP xDSL connection. But the business-app traffic or sensitive data can be backhauled to the office with faster and more secure transport.

SD-WAN can leverage the best transportation method for specific circumstances, like coverage or speed, by automatically shifting to either xDSL, 5G, cable, MPLS, or even satellite. This approach allows more availability, reliability, and reduced points of failure.

8.  Leverage Policy-based Routing (PbR).

SD-WAN policy-based Routing (PbR) allows a network to perform intelligent routing decisions based on policies. It overrides the traditional routing decisions based on destination IP or the routing table to a traffic forwarding based on policies.

With SD-WAN, you can route traffic based on different policy criteria, like source/destination network, incoming interface, type of service, users/groups, transport type, etc. This PbR approach gives the network administrator total flexibility to increase redundancy, bandwidth capacity, load-balancing, and security levels.

For example, with PbR, you can configure each application class to receive suitable security and QoS policy. If the application is cloud-based, the traffic is forwarded to a specific interface. In another example, a source IP can be enforced with a policy to always forward traffic to headquarters and never go out to the Internet.

9.  Streamline WAN provisioning.

In traditional WAN deployments, a technician would have to either go to a site or use the Internet to remotely log into someone’s computer at the branch to provision a new WAN router. This approach would make new provisionings take a long time and a handful of resources.

One of the most popular reasons why businesses are starting to adopt SD-WAN is because of its zero-touch provisioning capabilities. With zero-touch provisioning, network admins can remotely provision a new router across the entire WAN in a matter of minutes.

Zero-touch provisioning allows easier WAN deployments and also improves scalability. With this approach, there is no need to send a technician on-site as long as the remote (Plug-n-Play) SD-WAN appliance is connected. This will immediately establish communication with the SD-WAN controller.

10.  Reduce WAN costs.

SD-WAN is the best cost-efficient alternative to WAN networks such as MPLS. For instance, the cost for MPLS bandwidth can get high as the number of business branch offices increase and disperse, not to mention the cost increase for all traffic backhauls. In addition, provisioning an MPLS link can take up resources, not only in time but also in manpower and money.

SD-WAN is a cost-efficient alternative mainly because it provides the right connectivity for geographically distributed nodes in an efficient, scalable, agile, and simple way. It makes the available bandwidth more efficient, gives direct access to the cloud (without backhauling), allows central and zero-touch provisioning, and other benefits that lower maintenance costs.


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