Software-Defined WAN: What it is and How Your Business Can Benefit

January 9th, 2017 5:00 pm

Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is an application of software-defined networking (SDN) technology that is applied to WAN connections used to connect enterprise networks over large geographic distances. Enterprise networks typically consist of branch offices and data centers, so a WAN may be used to connect remote locations to a central corporate network, or to connect data centers that may be physically separated by distance. SD-WAN technology allows a combination of lower cost internet and MPLS circuits to be combined in a manner that yields high bandwidth and high quality throughput or Quality of Service (QoS).

Historically, WAN connections have frequently used technology that requires exclusive patented hardware. Because the new SD-WAN application is fundamentally software based, more of the network control is moved to the cloud. There are several benefits to this new software approach to WAN.

Cost savings

For customers, the flexibility and openness of cloud-based WAN technologies means an end to expensive, specialized WAN technology with fixed circuits and proprietary hardware. SD-WAN technology that uses Internet broadband connections can apply security and virtual private networking technology (VPN) to improve and secure Internet connectivity, making it an attractive alternative to expensive traditional WAN technologies such as a T-1 or MPLS. And because provisioning connectivity and services can be done via the cloud, SD-WAN also has the potential to remove expensive routing hardware used in more traditional WAN applications.


Evolving SD-WAN technology can also be more flexible. With SD-WAN connectivity controlled through the cloud, customers have the ability to increase or “burst” connectivity during times when demand is at its peak.


While most of the consumer focus around SD-WAN has been about cost savings and an improved user experience, enhanced security is another important part of the value equation. With the ability to encrypt WAN traffic, segment the network to limit the impact of a breach, and find an attack faster due to increased visibility into the network, SD-WAN offers enhanced security features that traditional WAN applications can’t.

Who can benefit

The types of businesses that can get the most out of SD-WAN technology include:
– Single or multi-site organizations that rely on cloud services
– Customers with voice, video, or Citrix deployments on commodity Internet
– Customers looking to create a meshed Internet VPN

The primary goal of SD-WAN technology is to provide a business-class, secure, and simple cloud-based WAN connection with as much open and software-based technology as possible. But because the capabilities of SD-WAN technology span a wide variety of applications, the service is continuing to evolve beyond basic WAN connectivity to also include premium business services such as VPN, WAN optimization, and applications delivery control (ADC). As a result, consumers can expect the trend to accelerate over the next few years.