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Whiteboard Fridays: How West UC Does SD-WAN

Friday, September 8, 2017 - 09:00

Everything You Need to Know About SD-WAN

It can be easy to get lost in the numerous acronyms involved in the unified communications space (UC), but one that should stand out is software-defined wide area network, or SD-WAN. This tool is an overlay that simplifies the management and usage of a wide area network (WAN), and has become a game changer in the network systems space. Read our Introduction to SD-WAN Basics for some baseline information.

Before SD-WAN, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) provided companies with a flexible, stable and high-performing way to connect offices. But the steady increase in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) implementations encouraged a push toward SD-WAN. A Gartner study estimates that SD-WAN currently has less than five percent of market share, but predicts that up to 30 percent of users will manage their WAN through software by 2019.

With such a large growth trajectory, many companies are starting to take a second look at SD-WAN. Here we will walk through what SD-WAN is, why adoption is surging, and the many benefits companies can expect.

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN is a technology used to spread network traffic across a large geographic area using public networks. SD-WAN is defined by four key characteristics which include: supporting multiple connection types (MPLS, Internet, LTE, etc.), allowing for dynamic path selection to share loads across WAN connections, providing a simple interface for WAN management, and lastly, supporting Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and other 3rd-party services like firewalls, gateways, etc.

These four main aspects of SD-WAN allow remote office branches to connect to an enterprise network without spending thousands on private network systems and expensive hardware. SD-WAN has been made possible by increasingly flexible public cloud services and many companies’ strong desire for public network options. While organizations are excited for the possibilities that SD-WAN creates, many are just starting to dip their toes in the water.

Why is SD-WAN Adoption Surging?

Initially, the adoption of SD-WAN in enterprises was slow, due to concerns about network security and performance. But over time, these concerns have been mitigated with the emergence of more solid network security options and steady performance. SD-WAN is no longer just for early adopters as more companies see the potential value the solution can bring to their network systems.

The typical approach to wide area networks (WANs) requires costly hardware to be deployed at each office while ongoing maintenance and management tasks must be performed on-site. This is an especially difficult undertaking for office sites with few or no on-site IT staff. However, with the addition of an SD-WAN solution, remote office branches can connect to the larger enterprise network through a low-cost customer edge device and a public broadband connection. This offers a cheaper, more flexible solution that didn’t previously exist for organizations with geographically distant office branches.

West offers SD-WAN solutions that allow IT managers to easily and quickly move applications to the public cloud. These solutions make it easier to reliably run high-bandwidth, real-time applications, like video, in branch offices and easily manage technology updates and rollouts.

4 Benefits of SD-WAN

While traditional WAN and MPLS have been great options, the addition of SD-WAN is growing in popularity. Here are a few reasons companies should consider SD-WAN:

1. Reduced Costs

Gartner reports that SD-WAN can be up to two and a half times less expensive than traditional WAN architecture thanks to fewer necessary personnel and hardware requirements. For example, a 250-branch traditional architecture WAN is estimated to cost $1,285,000 over three years, while an SD-WAN approach rings in at about $452,500, resulting in savings of $832,500.

2. Greater Reliability

SD-WAN allows companies to consolidate control of all WAN traffic and ensures users have improved application visibility and consistent performance. SD-WAN also improves availability with simplified failover and faster reallocation of traffic.

3. Easy Scalability

Because there are fewer costs associated with buying hardware or increasing personnel for SD-WAN, it is easy to scale and implement. With SD-WAN, companies can easily also roll out new telecommunications tools or other network updates to their entire workforce with more flexibility and less stress.

4. Streamlined Management

SD-WAN offers centralized management with comprehensive analytics and troubleshooting functionality. This means IT teams can monitor their whole network from one easy-to-use interface. All IT policies can be enforced uniformly at different locations, including ones without an on-site IT presence. And management can see how bandwidth is being used in real-time to adjust as needed.

SD-WAN simplifies network management and deployment, making it ideal for strategy-minded IT teams that don’t have the resources to manage multiple locations in a hands-on manner. Once companies recognize the flexibility and cost savings that SD-WAN provides, it will become an organization-wide acronym everyone knows.

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