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SD-WAN: The Complete Buyer’s Guide

With more business-critical applications going on the cloud, it’s becoming extremely necessary for the organization to consider the internet as part of its core network. Paying for private links (MPLS) may not help as they can get crazy expensive with every expansion.

The next best solution is VPN, and we’ve seen businesses building robust networks with several VPNs running on multiple ISPs. However, VPN doesn’t offer the same reliability and consistency you would get with MPLS.

To find out if SD-WAN is right for you, LAN InfoTech explains the business justification and prepares a list of service providers you should consider.

What is SD-WAN?

A software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is a virtual network architecture that allows an organization to exploit the power of the internet and connect its users to enterprise resources from anywhere. It is one of the more cloud-friendly network infrastructures around, delivering high-quality performances on cloud-managed services like Office 365 and Microsoft Azure.

What Are Its Benefits?

Much of the hype you’ve been told on SD-WAN technology is true and, it’s not dying anytime soon because of its crucial benefits. SD-WAN essentially offloads some workload handled by your 1-gigabyte connection and sends it to the more powerful 200-gigabyte internet link. That move alone delivers better user experiences on your enterprise applications, providing high availability and improved latency.
Intelligent networking

A software-defined network employs machine learning technology to monitor and adapt to changes in the network. For instance, traditional failover systems wouldn’t detect increased latency and jitter on your backbone network while the link is still on. SD-WAN would, and it will redirect the traffic to a better-performing link anytime performance falls below the policy threshold. Users enjoy fewer interruptions and better experiences on mission-critical applications.

Centralized Control

SD-WAN allows you to define standardized criteria for routing management.

  • Application-based routing prioritizes traffic according to the critical application in use. For instance, you can set it to deliver better audio and video quality for teleconferencing applications.
  • Bandwidth policies manage routing according to the links that deliver the best performance. You can have a high-priority link set to handle critical services and a low-priority one to manage mail services and file sharing.
  • Policy-based routing filters traffic according to specific criteria like source IP, traffic type, and more. For instance, you can set incoming traffic to high priority and the reverse for outgoing traffic, or you could increase delivery speeds for high-traffic connections.

Enhanced Security

SD-WAN delegates access control using predefined policies. Branches can also enforce access control, and you have other layers on the cloud. This way, you can host your high-risk applications in-house and send other users to the cloud. The technology enforces strong encryption standards to protect the data shared over the internet.

Increased Transparency

Imagining that all your network connections, regardless of protocol, could be managed from one interface was almost utopian before SD-WAN. The technology allows us to have a unified dashboard to manage MPLS, broadband, and wireless cellular connections.

The Business Case for SD-WAN – Is It for You?

Traditional networks routed all organizational traffic to the corporate data center, which slowed down connections and made it harder to sustain uptime of high-traffic applications. Network administrators had a hard time managing services on the cloud, connecting the branches on VPN, and linking to the rest of the world on broadband and cellular networks.

The benefits notwithstanding, a business needs to consider the viability of investing in technology by assessing its current operational needs.

For example, it makes little economic sense to go for SD-WAN when you have a handful of employees and just a few branches spread across a region. An MPLS connection will deliver everything you need securely at reasonable costs. However, the private link is highly impractical for organizations running cloud-first applications to support a highly distributed workforce. SD-WAN will deliver the best security and reliability at a fraction of the price.

Where to Find an SD-WAN Service that Suits You

SD-WAN is slowly evolving from a niche space with smaller players into a dominant industry technology as more established brands consolidate the market with acquisitions. The International Data Corporation (IDC) projects nearly 20% annual revenue growth in these companies and up to $7 billion in returns in 2025. The following list highlights the main features in some offerings from the main brands.

1). CISCO SD-WAN

CISCO controls a huge section of the current SD-WAN consumers, allowing them to manage all their network applications from one dashboard. Their product comes fully equipped with cloud capabilities, MPLS integration, enterprise firewall, and many other embedded security features.

2). VeloCloud SD-WAN

The company behind VeloCloud is the current industry leader in network virtualization. VeloCloud by VMware addresses the need to provide simple,  scalable, and highly available network resources on the cloud. It provides more features like branch routing, centralized security, and hybrid network optimization.

3). Citrix SD-WAN

Citrix rides on the company’s strong expertise in virtualization technology to deliver always-on applications on the cloud regardless of location. All the network components can be managed from a single dashboard.

4). Fortigate SD-WAN

Fortinet’s FortiGate SD-WAN delivers optimized WAN connectivity with multiple path control and multi-link support. The company behind the product has one of the best-selling network firewall solutions, giving us a good hint of its robust security features.

5). Oracle SD-WAN

Oracle’s solution makes it easy to deploy and deliver highly available applications from branch-to-branch or branch to cloud. It has a centralized management module and is fully cloud-based with no MPLS capabilities.

6). CenturyLink

CenturyLink provides a hybrid managed/co-managed SD-WAN solution riding on different technologies to provide secure and reliable connections across different platforms. It supports MPLS, broadband, and LTE connections and a centralized portal for greater visibility over the network.

7). Aryaka Networks

Aryaka’s SD-WAN rests on the cloud as a fully managed service. It has one of the easiest setups as the provider handles all the cloud-side configurations.

Steps: What’s Your SD-WAN Strategy?

Many companies switch to SD-WAN using three different approaches:

  • Do-it-yourself employs in-house teams to configure and manage the solution, usually an off-the-shelf purchase.
  • In the network as a service(NetaaS) arrangement, companies break down the SD-WAN into functional components and source for the best providers in each segment.
  • Managed service providers offer all SD-WAN infrastructure and network management services in one bundle.

If you’re ready to switch to SD-WAN, but you’re not sure of which road to take, schedule a consultation with LAN InfoTech for the perfect solutions.

Thanks to fellow Ulistic client, James Forbis, a Cincinnati IT services professional with 4BIS.COM for his help with this article.