Software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) have been the subject of much discussion in the networking community lately. The explosion of cloud services and frustration with the rigidity, cost, and complexity of MPLS-based WANs is driving companies to consider transforming their network with the Internet, and pushing MPLS aside.  That said, the question should not be, “Is SD-WAN here to stay?” But, rather, “At what pace will the transition occur?”

While it’s a known challenge to integrate both private networks and public cloud resources, the SD-WAN design provides the flexibility required to transition to Internet as needed, visibility into both legacy and cloud applications, the ability to centrally assign business intent policies, and provide users with consistent and dramatically enhanced application performance.  

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As more organisations move to the cloud to gain a competitive edge in their respective arenas, many are turning to this SD-WAN design as a more cost-effective means of connecting users to applications. The good news is that we do not need to wait around for the underlying network infrastructure to be replaced before we can take advantage of these cloud-optimised SD-WAN designs.  

If we look more broadly at the networking arena, much of the world has been waiting for Software-Defined Networks (SDNs) to take hold. However, implementing a true SDN today often means a rip and replace of the current network infrastructure, and many IT teams hesitate to jump in that ocean, evoking the “if it ain’t broke” mantra to justify their network design strategy. In contrast, SD-WAN offers a faster path to adoption by emphasising improvements in the WAN without disrupting the underlay architecture. There’s also the ability to transition to a full broadband-based WAN by using path selection capabilities of an SD-WAN to build a hybrid WAN that leverages both broadband and MPLS.

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Companies routinely pay network service providers large sums of money for the same amount of bandwidth that employees can purchase in their homes for one-tenth of the cost.  Another example of long-accepted network clutter include entire corporate backbones that are often built with limited to no redundancy and without encryption. Many network teams also find themselves relying on dated reporting mechanisms and insufficient information to troubleshoot and support critical network infrastructures. The list could go on.

Ultimately, trends come and go in the technology industry…

While the potential of SDN promises to improve the way networks are designed, built and supported, SD-WAN targets traditional WAN concepts and holds the key to unleashing significant improvements in the way WANs are built and managed. For the first time, it allows organisations of all sizes to connect their branches in a matter of minutes, leveraging the Internet in a secure and optimised manner to either augment or completely replace their legacy MPLS networks. Ultimately, trends come and go in the technology industry, that’s just the way the industry works, but the solution and impact of SD-WAN will be here for the long-run.

Chris Rogers, Director of cloud solutions, Silver Peak

Chris is currently the director of cloud solutions at Silver Peak.  He has been in the data networking industry for close to 20 years in various customer-facing technical roles.  Before taking on his current role, Chris served as the director of the North American SE Team at Silver Peak.  Prior to joining Silver Peak in 2008, Chris was a solutions architect at F5 Networks.  He has also held sales engineering roles at Fiberlink, UUNet and CompuServe Network Services.  Chris is married with two teenagers and currently resides in Massachusetts.  He can be found on Twitter as @silverpeakchris

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