What is SD WAN? Everything you need to know


Many IT managers and CIOs are now asking themselves; what is SD WAN and how will it benefit my organisation?

It’s no secret that most enterprise IT managers and CIOs hate their wide area network. The WAN is typically an expensive, administrative nightmare, with lead times for bandwidth running into months.

But over the last year or two, a technology has emerged that represents a more simplified and cost effective way to WAN. And while it doesn’t act as a silver bullet for all your wide area networking problems, it does address some of the biggest pain points well.

In fact, SD WAN the SD stands for Software Defined—has arrived so quickly it has somewhat caught the industry off guard! Such is the demand for a tool as compelling as this. Predictions from Gartner suggest that by the end of 2019, 30% of enterprises will have deployed SD WAN technology in their branches, up from less than 1% in 2015.

What is SD WAN?

What SD WAN enables is a true hybrid WAN. With more and more enterprise applications moving into the internet, businesses are adding more commodity internet into the traditional WAN mix to better balance network performance and price. The result is increased overheads in terms of network management, configuration and orchestration. Until now. SD WAN reduces the level of expertise required to configure the branch to what Gartner claims is the equivalent of “setting up a basic home wireless network with consumer-grade equipment.”

It’s a bold claim, but what SD WAN clearly delivers in terms of business benefits is the ability for an enterprise to combine dedicated data connections with low-cost broadband links in their WAN, and do so securely.

Customers can then reserve off net data capacity for more business critical applications. The end result is that a hybrid network is formed where non critical data is offloaded to a secured internet tunnel, freeing up MPLS bandwidth for business critical data, efficiently increasing the total bandwidth to branch sites. Data over the Internet is secured by using IPSec tunnels; and the customer is free to use their existing Internet Service Provider if they so wish.

Although many of the concepts underpinning SD WAN as a technology-such as encryption, path control, overlay networks and subscription-based pricing–are not new, SD WAN acts as an umbrella for all these technologies, and presents them to enterprises in an integrated package.

When a customer wants secure, guaranteed delivery with quality of service for their data network, they don’t want increasing data capacity requirements to mean more expensive bandwidth circuits. So the solution is to use the public internet for those apps which are not latency critical like email or web surfing, while reserving your data networks for the mission critical, high bandwidth applications. And because data sent over the internet is still secured by using IPSec tunnels, the customer is free to use their existing internet service provider if they so wish.

To learn more about Colt’s new SD-WAN service click here 

Or if you’re still asking yourself what is SD WAN? find out more about why traditional WAN deployments can hinder your digital transformation download the Forrester whitepaper ‘The public internet isn’t your WAN’ here.

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