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SD WAN – What’s up with that?

So what is this SD-WAN that you have been hearing about? SD-WAN, the acronym for Software Defined Wide Area Network is a new take on the traditional Wide Area Network (WAN). A standard WAN’s goal was to connect users at a branch to a main campus or central office. A WAN is fundamentally hardware-based, using routers to connect users to a central data center. Network administrators or engineers determine how data is moved across the various communication lines. WANs no longer are effective it handling the multi-directional, low-latency demanding applications that have arisen in the workplace of today. There are multiple drivers that encourage the adoption of SD-WAN technology, but security and the rise of cloud data storage and SaaS applications are key among them. The other is cost. Traditional WANs can involve considerable CAPEX costs. They also involve more cumbersome and labor intensive administrative activity that can be streamlined by moving towards a software defined model. WANs are not “agile” and the SD-WAN model increases real-time flexibility in handling traffic.

Why might you consider SD-WAN? Most likely as your organization increases its use of cloud and SaaS services. One simple example. Under a WAN model, users have to experience “backhauling” from their location to the data center or “headquarters” before they can access the cloud. This basically means taking the long route. It slows the user experience. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense because it uses a hub and spoke model. Think back to when most major US Airlines used the hub model. All of their flights routed through one or two hub airports, so no matter where you wanted to go, you had to fly to the hub, then back out again. It was not a user-friednlty experience, and it certainly wasn’t efficient use of a flyer’s time. And, if weather or some other disruption slowed traffic our of the hub, the entire system suffered delays. The WAN model, suffers from a similar problem. SD-WAN works to address that.

Also, a WAN can reroute traffic in real-time. This can mean greater efficiency and optimization of traffic routing and resources. As your organization increases the complexity of your users’ access needs, you should talk to your Managed Service Provider about the pros and cons of moving toward a SD-Wan model.