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The Demystification of SD-WAN

By October 2, 2018November 2nd, 2018No Comments6 min read

Although some large companies are already switching to SD-WAN, the broad mass of companies is still watching the developments. Why? Like many things that are new and complex, SD-WAN also has one or two myths that need to be clarified.

Myth 1: Laying SD-WAN “simply” over an existing physical network and instantly have a more stable network

In fact, software-defined wide area networking actually means that with the help of a software-based solution, networks are no longer controlled by the physical infrastructure at the various branches, but by a software-controlled, virtual private network. This makes it easy for organizations with a wide variety of locations to unify their network – using a wide variety of private, local networks to deliver the cloud-based SD-WAN, centralizing and accelerating network control, configuration, maintenance and monitoring. This setup provides WAN users with the benefits of a software-defined network (SDN): For example, a dynamic adaptation of the transport channels for applications and better insights into the network are possible. However, setting up an SD-WAN is not “just” the superiority of the software-based network.

Even though the interfaces can be managed much more easily with this uniform solution, the appropriate equipment must first be installed at the individual locations, which routes the traffic over the overlapping network. This equipment can be a physical device. For enterprises with a complex network, virtual devices can be used that also support network functions, such as firewalls. There are also hybrid solutions that use both physical and virtual applications. However, setting up an SD-WAN is not “just” the superiority of the software-based network.

Myth 2: With SD-WAN, the network is secure

Due to the software settings, it is much easier to analyze the traffic that travels over the network than in traditional networks. This more comprehensive insight increases computer security by allowing administrators to more quickly identify suspicious activity. In addition, multi-national companies with SD-WANs have the advantage that they only have one network provider, allowing them to detect and combat internet security incidents faster than with the 23 different network providers, which on average have companies of the same size under contract. A holistic, software-based network solution offers security benefits. However, it can not replace a comprehensive security strategy, but rather has to be a part of it.

Myth 3: SD-WAN solves all existing network problems

Although SD-WANs manage the management of wide-area traffic over the overlapping network, the underlying physical network is still important. The new solution can not magically solve problems caused by a hodgepodge of poor quality connections. Solid performance is also important at the lower network level for SD-WANs to deliver the expected success.

Myth 4: SD WANs can only be set up with a provider

When setting up an SD-WAN architecture, several options are available. The network can either be completely set up and configured by the network provider, who then also takes care of the installation of the equipment at the individual sites as well as the ongoing maintenance. Nevertheless, SD-WAN technology should be particularly easy to control and have a high degree of automation. So there is the possibility to set up the network itself. For this purpose, the routing devices for SD-WAN are purchased from a provider and then installed and configured by the company on their own at the sites. As a hybrid solution, it is also possible to commission a service provider with the installation of the devices and to take over the subsequent control itself.

Companies that choose the do-it-yourself option should be aware of some potential challenges. For example, complications may occur with the various networks at the lower level. The technical complexity of making an SD-WAN functional in an already existing network should not be underestimated. There are companies that first introduced, for example, in one country, SD-WAN on a trial basis and resorted to a network provider for the global facility because of the complexity.

So many constellations are possible when setting up and controlling an SD-WAN – basically, every company that wants to set up such a network must find an individual solution for their respective needs. To do this, companies should be aware of what they want to achieve with an SD WAN and what their network must deliver over the next three to five years. This leads to another important question: What does the implementation of a software-based network look like, what should be considered and what steps must be taken?

Necessary steps in the implementation

The defined requirements for the SD-WAN should be mapped in a next step in the laboratory and the technology should be tested. Here, the requirements are specified again and questions such as segmentation, encryption strength or company-owned certificates are answered. Once all the preparations have been completed, it is essential to test the network in a pilot project before it is rolled out at all sites. This makes it possible to check whether all applications also work in the new, dynamic network. It can also be made any adjustments without affecting the entire company. After successful completion of the pilot phase, the network can be rolled out to all locations. Now such a change does not happen overnight. That’s why it’s important to remember

Towards Standard

The market for SD WAN vendors is expected to grow strongly. According to IDC, the SD-WAN market is expected to reach $ 8 billion by 2021. New demands on networks continue to drive this development: Continuously more employees work on mobile devices or in places other than the office, and the ongoing development of cloud and data analytics opens up new possibilities, which, however, require more network capacity. SD-WAN offers a decisive advantage for this: Flexibility – cannot be used with the previous, hardware-bound networks. So SD-WAN will become the standard in a few years.

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