A Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is a modern technology that many businesses leverage as it provides multiple, convenient features to manage IT infrastructure.

From central management to deployment, SD-WAN streamlines everything. 

And If you have a multi-site business, SD-WAN allows you to merge every network into one single network. 

This technology is a boon for modern enterprises as the need for an effective software solution to manage their tasks and network increases. 

SD-WAN helps improve connectivity to the cloud, branch offices, and data centers.

In this article, I’ll talk about SD-WAN, how it works, why many organizations prefer SD-WAN, and some of the best SD-WAN vendors you can consider. 

Let’s begin!

What Is SD-WAN?

Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is a transformative tech that helps enterprises to simplify the IT infrastructure management and control via virtual WAN architecture in order to connect users to the applications.

The plus point of SD-WAN is its connectivity, reliability, application performance, and enhanced network agility. It leverages the combination of transportation services, such as LTE, broadband internet services, and MPLS. 

SD-WAN directs the traffic intelligently and securely across the WAN to trusted IaaS and SaaS providers via a centralized control function. It offers many advantages, such as reduced costs, improved performance, optimized user experience, and simplified operations. 

If your enterprise is vulnerable to internet outages, switching to SD-WAN can be a helpful approach to secure your internet outage. It uses two tunneling technologies – one via the MPLS and another via the internet. Due to encapsulation or tunneling, customers’ traffic is isolated from one another. 

How Does SD-WAN Work?

The conventional router-centric model is the traditional model that distributes control functions among all devices and routes the traffic in a simple manner based on ACLs and TCP/IP addresses. 

The approach may be complex, not cloud-friendly, inefficient, rigid, and not result-oriented. Hence, it can lead to a poor user experience. 

By using SD-WAN, your cloud-based enterprises can deliver the highest quality of user experience. It provides an intelligent application-aware routing among the WAN by identifying various applications in the network. Every application will receive appropriate security policy enforcement and QoS according to the business needs.

SD-WAN secures the local internet breakout of SaaS and IaaS application traffic from a dedicated data center, branch office, or multiple clouds to provide superior cloud performance. At the same time, it can protect your enterprise from unwanted threats

If you need to archive things, SD-WAN is quite useful in automation terms. It can automate your tedious and error-prone processes to save time and stress. An example could be VPNs where every site is connected to the other site. 

Why SD-WAN?

In the modern world, many enterprises depend on cloud solutions and subscribe to SaaS solutions for better management and workflow. 

In addition, when COVID-19 came upon us suddenly, many enterprises faced a lot of difficulties. SD-WAN is one of those technologies that helped businesses overcome that impact. 

Using SD-WAN offers a lot of benefits to businesses. Some of them are:

Superb Network Experience

Enterprises rely on applications, applications rely on services, and services, in turn, rely on networks. Thus, without a secure, high-performing, and fast network, digital transformation initiatives can be stalled. SD-WAN acts as a digital transformation enabler. 

Business-driven SD-WAN provides a better solution in terms of intelligence, performance, scale, and reliability. Having all this in a network enables you to provide a quality experience to your users. It will also help you make strategic decisions for your enterprise and improve your outcomes. 

Automation

While enterprises deploy new applications or change their security policy, SD-WAN supports the centralized configuration that allows the deployment of the changes in a few minutes. Thus, centralized orchestration and automation greatly reduce human errors to enhance performance and security

Self-Learning

SD-WAN responds automatically to network changes through continuous self-learning and monitoring. It can adapt to the changes immediately in real-time to avoid network congestion, transport outages, brownouts, etc. 

Other Benefits

  • Lowers complexity
  • Reduces costs
  • Protects against threats
  • Streamline the migration process
  • Rapid deployment
  • Ease of management and operation

WAN vs. LAN

WAN is slightly different from LAN. Local Area Networks (LAN) enable individual networks to serve one location. But WAN enables multiple sites to merge into one network. In WAN, all the links are private, even though they cover long distances. 

SD-WAN vs. MPLS

Multiprotocol Label Switching or MPLS is the transportation of network technology that directs traffic through the shortest path possible on “labels” instead of network addresses. It is known for its true reliable nature, where data packets reach their destination efficiently and quickly. 

SD-WAN and MPLS offer the same functionality but less differently. Due to this, both can be compared using speed, performance, etc. 

Let’s dive deeper to know how SD-WAN is different from MPLS.

Investment for Future

SD-WAN architecture allows enterprises to invest in networks and helps you move to the SASE architecture, which is the future for secure and cloud-based networking. 

MPLS requires physical links, which are not that flexible, to provide network connectivity. Thus, MPLS is not capable of supporting your architecture in the future.

As many enterprises move their businesses to the cloud and more users are working remotely, MPLS will cost more as compared to SD-WAN. By using SD-WAN, users can easily access applications and data at low costs. 

Performance and Reliability

SD-WAN is always ready for your organization to provide higher quality and reliable connections to edge users and remote locations for better network performance. This includes real-time applications and is bandwidth-intensive.

For example, SD-WAN automatically chooses the best possible path or paths for routing the data for a call. Due to this, you will find reduced call latency for all the participants, irrespective of their locations. 

On the other hand, MPLS fails to do so for your organization. Hence, it leads to lower performance, reliability, and user experience. 

Flexibility

As SD-WAN is capable of routing data packets using the shortest available path, it is also capable of securing various gigabit links. Depending upon the circumstances, SD-WAN directs the data packets through a wireless, direct connection, 5G, or through an MPLS circuit. 

MPLS circuits are less flexible, and the operational cost is also expensive. 

Security

MPLS requires more bandwidth costs for the operation as it is designed especially for networking. This means all the traffic first routes to the central location and then to the security stack. Security is a concern if you are using MPLS. 

On the other hand, SD-WAN combines security with networking and gives the best out of it. It protects you and users from advanced cyber threats as it helps in securing application and data traffic.

Simplified Operations

Implementing and managing the SD-WAN technology is easier for IT teams. Its automation understands that and hence reduces the need for manual tasks. The solutions provide control and visibility to the IT teams through centralized and cloud-based administration. 

If there is any failure in the equipment inside the network, the IT team must troubleshoot the issue manually and reroute the traffic accordingly. But MPLS has failed to lift the heavy load. 

Let’s now look at the best SD-WAN vendors.

Cisco Meraki

Get the most secure and trustable SD-WAN fabric with Cisco Meraki. It delivers best-in-class user experience and network security from anywhere for any workload.

Meraki connects users from multiple locations to private and public cloud environments or data centers. Its unique design helps you gain accuracy in using the same protocol for measuring real traffic and network performance. 

You can build resilient connectivity with integrated cellular WAN, Wi-Fi, and switching. With just three clicks, you can secure your wide network. Cisco Talos, the renowned security research team, can offer comprehensive security to add to your networking. 

Use the power of Talos for threat intelligence along with the advanced layer of 7 firewall protection, DLP, Cisco AMP, and more. Relax on your best couch and view everything to understand the application’s performance.

In a single view, you can monitor all the global links, such as home-user uplinks, cellular uplinks, and more. Additionally, a  wide range of virtual appliances and robust hardware can secure the connectivity between multi-cloud environments and branch sites.  

VMware

Transform your WAN with VMware and start with cutting-edge technology. The enterprise-grade and centrally managed appliances offer secure and optimized connectivity to the applications on or off-cloud. 

With VMware on your side, you won’t need any IT staff on the site; instead, allow them to focus on essential tasks. Simply power on the appliance, connect with the internet and feel the tech. The network edge is authenticated along with business policies managed by Orchestrator.

Dynamic Multipath Optimization offers link monitoring, packet steering, and remediation by connecting VMware SD-WAN gateways to SD-WAN edges and other edges. While working on all these connections, VMware takes care of the user experience quality.  

VMware SD-WAN Edge provides the bandwidth to the mission-critical applications by underlying WAN links. The Edges are instrumental in prioritizing and differentiating among many applications based on the business intent. 

Every SD-WAN Edge has a firewall capability so that you will get flexible security options for your business requirements. You can use SD-WAN Edge models’ central firewall service to configure the policies and deploy the same to the cloud security providers, data centers, and direct applications. 

Versa SD-WAN

Experience networking with better security in complete WAN edge solutions with Versa SD-WAN. It delivers various services across service vendors, small-medium businesses, mid-market, and enterprises. 

Versa SD-WAN combines multiple deployment options, a broad set of security solutions, zero-touch provisioning, and multi-tenancy options. It is built to keep security as the best breed. You get complete integration of scalable advanced routing, sophisticated analytics, genuine multi-tenancy, full-featured WAN, and more. 

Furthermore, you will get all the functionalities in a single carrier-grade operating system so that you can operate at an exceptional scale. In addition, you find the low-cost appliance through Versa SD-WAN with internet security, centralized control and policy with more security options, and application-aware routing. 

Enhance your business agility through SD-WAN and branch office networks. Now, you can expect better bandwidth and management with simplification of software sprawl while reducing the complexity of managing too many tasks. 

Aruba

Let Aruba SD-WAN technology secure and power your branch, security, and WAN so you can relax. It will help you build a modern SD-WAN edge that enables your businesses to get the highest return from your investments via better control, reliability, performance, and economics. 

Aruba aligns all your network resources according to the changing needs of your business. You will get the consistent performance of your application no matter what. It also offers a self-learning and adaptive platform for SD-WAN tech and can adjust to the changing conditions automatically.  

Moreover, Aruba unifies security, WAN optimization, routing, and SD-WAN for you to centrally manage everything from a single platform. Experience a full secure edge solution that spans branch, campus, remote workers, and WAN with an SD-WAN fabric. 

Aruba powers your SASE, delivers a value from cloud investments, adapts to the continuous changes, and simplifies overall cost and WAN architecture. You can connect your business to cloud solutions for any mesh connectivity across data centers, SaaS, cloud, and locations. 

Citrix

Experience the best with reliable and secure SD-WAN solutions offered by Citrix. It will help you deliver an always-on network in order to provide an exceptional user experience while providing a seamless business.

Citrix will drive your business’s digital transformation apart from boosting the performances of SaaS, cloud, and virtual apps across your branch offices and enterprise. You will get a high-performing, always available, and secure WAN Edge solution. 

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Furthermore, Citrix SD-WAN optimizes the delivery of your cloud, SaaS, and virtual applications on a flexible as well as a secure WAN and manages all with ease from a single window. It also helps improve business agility by using an always-on workspace, protecting all the network resources, and embracing the cloud. 

Citrix offers some deployment options, including MSPs, hybrid cloud, and Do-it-Yourself. You can choose any one option that best fits your needs and goals. Let Citrix manage the hard work for you so that you can focus on the rest of your business. 

Fortinet

Learn how Fortinet solves your networking problems with a secure SD-WAN Edge solution. It delivers scalable, flexible, and fast, secure SD-WAN Edge solutions for global and security-sensitive enterprises. 

Fortinet’s security-driven networking approach combines a next-generation firewall, advanced routing, and SD-WAN. This helps:

  • Accelerate security and network convergence with simplified WAN Edge architecture
  • Deliver the highest quality of experience at every scale
  • Achieve better operational efficiencies through deep analytics, self-healing, and automation
  • Orchestrate security policies 
  • Enable a consistent network for your business. 
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Fortinet uses one centralized management and one operating system console to improve security and user experience. This is effective due to converged network and security through operational continuity.

You will get a robust combination of AI-driven intelligence, NOC and SOC process automation, and inline prevention of previously unknown threats. The latest version of Fortinet offers automated overlay orchestration, enhanced application monitoring, and large-scale zero-touch provisioning. 

Aryaka

Get managed SD-WAN solutions for your cloud infrastructure with Aryaka and experience the benefit from its flexible and agile approach for hybrid workers, clouds, service levels sites, and optimal performance sites. 

Aryaka’s SD-WAN service leverages a true performance global network to provide a resilient and adaptable Network-as-a-Service for your enterprises to connect users, sites, and clouds worldwide. Aryaka’s core capabilities are as follows:

  • App, WAN, and link optimization
  • All-in-one managed service
  • Aryaka FlexCore
  • Co-management and white-glove options
  • Hybrid WAN and MPLS interworking
  • Last-mile services

If you are a security concern enterprise, then Aryaka’s SD-WAN solution is for you. It will provide you with higher application performance, flexible offerings, and a delightful experience. 

Lumen

Unleash the potential of your enterprise network and drive digital transformation with scalable, reliable, and secure Lumen SD-WAN solutions. 

Lumen reduces the risks and complexities of network transformation by coordinating and securing workloads across the complete range of connectivity types. It helps streamline your network operations with Lumen SD-WAN solutions and relax.

While choosing Lumen as your SD-WAN vendor, you will get benefits like strengthened security, optimized app performance, application availability, and increased network agility. Find the best solution for your enterprise now.

Prisma

Prisma SASE delivers automated, best-in-class, and integrated security with SD-WAN for your business in the age when security is a major concern for businesses around the globe. 

Prisma offers next-generation SD-WAN solutions powered by automation and ML for automated networking operations, router modernization, cloud-delivered security solutions, and integrated branch services. It simplifies the networking operations, resulting in secure connectivity inside the enterprise network. 

You can purchase SD-WAN based on your required bandwidth. This way, you can optimize the overall costs and get the same bandwidth. Prisma also allows you to reimagine your IT infrastructure in order to enhance services at scale and speed. 

Moreover, reduce labor-intensive and manual branch provisioning with integrated 5G and Zero Touch provisioning. Upgrade routers to lightweight and intelligent appliances at the branch and add essential services to your network with CloudBlades API-based platform. 

Conclusion 🧑‍💻

SD-WAN is a secure and modern technology that will help you during your WAN transformation journey. It is time to replace your traditional network routing options with SD-WAN modern routing capabilities. SD-WAN is the future as it can manage multiple connections simultaneously and help you manage your IT infrastructure with ease. And if you are looking for the best SD-WAN solution, you can choose any one of the above vendors.