Software defined networking hit the scene and has had ripple effects on the industry. One particularly relevant offshoot is the software-defined wide area network or SD-WAN. Many businesses with multiple locations and/or fast growth trajectories are seizing upon SD-WANs as an affordable and efficient way to connect sites and spin-up new locations. Some believe SD-WANs may even replace MPLS down the road. SD-WAN may not be the panacea it’s being made out to be – but it has tremendous upside that can’t be ignored. Here’s a closer look at SD-WAN and how it’s deployed today as an alternative to other networking architectures.


Like software-defined networking, SD-WAN separates the physical layer and the logical control layer. Using hardware to knit together disparate transport elements and make them available as a cohesive single network connection to the Internet or between sites, SD-WAN leverages hybrid WAN architecture in order to deploy enterprise connectivity and optimize how businesses route traffic across different locations and worksites. The result is secure, faster connectivity for customers who have multiple geographically-distributed sites or those who may be adding offices.

Meeting the Hype

The promise of SD-WAN was heralded – almost to the point where it would be impossible to meet the hopes and expectations for the solution. However, the early returns have been positive and show signs of meeting the hype. An article from Information Week Network Computing points out that, “early adopters of SD-WAN have achieved cost savings of 75% or more as compared to other approaches.”

There are a variety of features and considerations in SD-WANs.

  • Quality of Service

This is where the rubber meets the road for SD-WAN. SD-WANs have application level awareness, which allows bandwidth priority to the most critical applications, dynamic path selection, sending an application on a faster link, and splitting application between two paths. However, QoS is often the Achilles heel that critics and detractors point to in SD-WAN because it relies on the public Internet for service.

  • Resilience

Virtualized WANs can reduce downtime by sensing when there are network issues and re-routing traffic according to the rules inherent in the device.

  • Deployment options

Products are purposely set up at the network edge in data centers and remote offices; they also are programmed to recognize and utilize existing software placements. These virtual setups are in place to ensure the migration from corporate servers to cloud-based services are executed with ease and precision.

Tapping into the SD-WAN Future

Maturing technology, adapting online infrastructure and improving network architecture have all been key components to the breakout of SD-WAN. Previously, companies had to backhaul access over expensive MPLS circuits. With these changes, companies were forced to build their own private networks to cloud hosted services. This resulted in enterprises facing challenges of building a path to the cloud as robust, secure, and manageable as a private network. Thankfully, SD-WAN technology extends its managed overlay to cloud destinations, which helps increase employee productivity and business velocity.

Network Virtualization Is Here to Stay

Perhaps the most telling aspect of SD-WAN expansion is that customers are continuing to buy into network virtualization, which should turn the heads of other service providers. Forrester recently reported that in less than a year, some 58% of all workloads will be supported by software-defined applications like network virtualization. This trend saddles IT teams with more considerations to make in order to keep their enterprises competitive and their users efficient.

What may be most difficult for IT to determine is where optimization efforts like network virtualization fit on their priority list. To learn the factors that make evaluating IT priorities a little easier, check out our blog on the factory vs. enablement dilemma.

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