SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Networking) is the new buzzword in telecom. But what exactly, in simple terms, is it?
One of the leading companies defines it this way: “a transformational approach to simplify branch office networking and assure optimal application performance… the underlying principle of which is to abstract the network hardware and transport characteristics from the applications that use the network.”
Is that helpful? Does that help you understand what is is and how it might “transform” your business?
Let’s look at it in simpler terms.
Networking is the packaging together of data into bundles (packets) and transporting those packets across a network. The networks we use most of the time are the Internet and the private networks within our homes or businesses.
The data that comprise applications input and output, emails, files, images, websites, and YouTube cat videos, are moving on these networks all the time. Data is then like cargo loaded in the back of a truck being driven between two points. And the trucks are rolling 24/7.
For businesses that need to move a lot of data between multiple locations create and manage their own Wide Area Networks (data connections between offices). Deploying a WAN for your enterprise is like sending trucks onto the highways between cities.
The cheapest and most freely available network to move your data is the Internet – which would be like using the public interstate highway system to transport your cargo by truck. But, like the freeway system, the Internet is rife with congestion and subject to disruption based on all kinds of forces out of your own control. Construction, accidents, bad information on routes, can all delay, disrupt, and even derail your data. This causes unreliability in knowing when your cargo is going to land on the other side of your wide area network (or insecurity that your data will arrive intact and unmolested). In data terms, this unreliability expresses itself as jitter, packet loss and down time.
Traditionally, the way around this problem has been for enterprises to build their own highway system using costly private carrier circuits (T-1’s, DS3’s, fiber and wireless direct links). Imagine paying to build roads only you can drive your trucks on! Sweet and complete control over your haulage but nightmarishly expensive.
For a hybrid solution, companies might instead invest in access to toll roads (like a carrier service called MPLS). Still expensive but at least it offers a level of reliability to the movement of cargo.
But what if you could use those inexpensive public networks but get the level of reliability that only comes with private networks?
SD-WAN could be the answer. It manages the routing of your traffic across multiple links as a software layer of service (independent of the physical network layer), always looks for the most-efficient link to route data, and can be ready at a moment’s notice to drive around problems.
So, SD-WAN is like GPS with auto traffic routing. Instead of expensive private connections (highways), you install two Internet connections (multiple freeway on-ramps) at each location on your Wide Area Network. The SD-WAN service then manages your data traffic to make sure that your cargo travels along the most efficient path (as well as allowing you to set rules to determine which data, which applications you share across a network, get priority when there is conflict or congestion).
With SD-WAN, The chances of disruption are greatly minimized. You practically eliminate packet delays and jitter. And, you can cut WAN costs to nothing more than the price of Internet connections and the service itself.
If you want to learn more or explore the options to deploy SD-WAN on your data network, contact me (use the form to the right of this article).
Steve Medcroft is the author of The Telecom Manager’s Survival Guide and a Senior Telecom Analyst at City Communications in Phoenix Arizona. City Communications procures and delivers best-in-class telephony and wide-area networking technology for businesses nationwide.