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SD-WAN simplified: an introduction to software-defined networks

Posted by Chris McQueen on Feb 28, 2020 12:00:00 AM
SD-WAN simplified: an introduction to software-defined networks - Business IT Sheffield

Please note: This post was written by Highlander prior to their rebrand to FluidOne Business IT - Sheffield.

Having established a position as one of the most exciting technologies of 2019, software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) are becoming an increasingly attractive architectural change as organisations seek to move faster, innovate more and save money.

New apps, cloud services and a mobile workforce are more demanding than ever of the network – performance and reliability dramatically impacting the user experience. Old-school networks are notoriously complex and for that reason are tiring to manage and generally not fit for the dynamic world they now serve. Likewise, open frontiers and a network ‘edge’ that extends well beyond the traditional perimeter makes security a top priority for almost every organisation.

It’s the aggregation of these factors that are encouraging businesses to rethink their network design and the technologies they employ. And SD-WAN is heading to the top of the consideration list. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it’s important to understand not just how this latest network model is built, but the commercial and operational benefits it can deliver for your business.

With that in mind, here’s our introduction to SD-WAN.

SD-WAN explained

In simple terms, a software-defined network is one which is decoupled from the physical hardware and instead created in software. It means everything is easily centralised and then controlled from a single management interface.

Within every network there is both a data plane and a control plane. The data plane is what holds the information as it passes through your network, while the control plane takes responsibility for how this information is directed. Historically, both of these planes have existed within individual routers on-site, but SD-WAN shifts the control plane away from the router to a centralised location.

Unlike traditional networks, data traffic can be easily directed across multiple network services across the entire WAN, helping to ensure an enhanced user experience without unwanted data latency. There’s also no need to divert network traffic through any single central location. Multiple connections can be utilised to ensure that traffic is directed as needed via the best possible route.

Centralising control of the network also sees that any changes, additional overlays or new configurations can be implemented at scale with next to no technical competency required at site.

What are the benefits of SD-WAN?

  1. Prioritised performance

Leveraging multiple transport vehicles throughout the WAN enables your network to prioritise the performance of specific applications.

Prioritisation policies can be grouped together and rolled out seamlessly across all areas of your network, easily implemented from the central management tool.

These rules ensure that data is only diverted down the most efficient connection, with less important information being re-directed elsewhere to preserve bandwidth and guarantee continued service quality. This is especially important in regards to cloud adoption, where quality of service can be particularly impactful on application access and performance.

  1. Ensure ongoing security

Through a central management platform, you can implement new security overlays across multiple aspects of your network with ease, with centralised cloud-based solutions including firewalls and malware detection enabled at scale without excessive technical demands. This can be implemented centrally, and deployed across as many of the edge routers as required.

You can also better enforce policy management for individual sites without extensive configurations and identify potentially malicious and harmful devices or connections before they infiltrate your wider network.

  1. Cost-effective management

Configuring and scaling legacy networks is both expensive and time-consuming. Installing new MPLS lines can take up to 90 days, with initial set up and subsequent modifications placing a significant time demand on IT resource as well as unwelcomed lag for the business.

With SD-WAN, the network can be scaled at speed, with new hardware configured centrally, removing the need to configure each new router on site.

SD-WAN also utilises conventional internet connectivity to create new connections, so there is no need for new MPLS circuits to meet capacity increases. Locations simply scale their internet bandwidth as required.

Ultimately software-defined WAN allows for a greater level of network control, flexibility and agility. It’s well suited to meeting the demands of digital business, allowing you to scale out at speed while ensuring enterprise-grade protection across multiple sites with no compromise on performance.

We can analyse your existing environment to identify how best to implement a software-defined network as part of a complete end-to-end solution.

To learn more, get in touch with a member of the team.

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