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Most businesses, whether they be large MNCs or SMBs, use a wide area network (WAN) to share and transfer data between their employees, customers and vendors over geographical distances.
While WANs are a good solution for establishing long-distance computer networks, they suffer from a few problems. When companies further expand their networks, they often encounter data packet loss, jitter issues, network congestion and outages.
In comparison to traditional WAN, SD-WAN solves these issues. Let’s look at the evolution of WAN and the advantages of SD-WAN.
Today, many enterprises use Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) to carry their data across telecommunications networks. MPLS offers some key benefits such as handling data packets consistently and mapping real-time traffic, such as video or voice data, to low-latency routes.
Organizations may love the dependability of MPLS, but it often takes 3-6 months to order and install MPLS circuits. It’s not cost-effective either, as 10Mbps Direct Internet Access (DIA) a hybrid WAN solution is less expensive in global key markets, according to a TeleGeography Q1, 2017 report. Keep in mind that hybrid WANs and SD-WANs are similar but not identical, as the former usually features a Software Defined Networking (SDN) component and multiple connection types.
WAN routing is an older method for handling interior and exterior routing protocols. Interior routing involves finding the best routes within a single network, while exterior routing passes routing data from one network to another and both rely on manual configurations. This method works well for web browsing, emailing, and client-server applications but is not ideal for dynamic applications due to latency.
WAN Path Control became popular as enterprises looked to reduce latency, fully-utilize bandwidth, and handle multiple WAN links simultaneously. System administrators can set up their own policies and have granular control of multiple WAN links and traffic entirely across all their networks. Moreover, WAN Path Control intelligently load balances traffic across multiple available links, which utilizes standby lines when necessary and idle lines as a backup channel.
Hybrid WAN is a major improvement to traditional WAN because it employs path selection from the get-go, which monitors latency in real-time and chooses the best link for traffic accordingly. Another feather in hybrid WAN’s proverbial cap is that administrators can utilize asymmetrical optimization techniques using both an Internet connection and MPLS link, whereas traditional WAN optimizations are symmetrical.
This allows traffic to flow smoothly without quality loss, as one line will switch for another as soon as there is any loss of packets, jitter, or latency issues. It’s also possible to turn an existing hybrid WAN into SD-WAN, which we’ll look into next.
Many enterprises seek alternatives to WAN that are less costly, reliable, and secure and a software-based technology makes perfect sense. SD-WAN (software-defined wide area network) is available in both hardware and software forms. It decouples networking hardware from its control mechanism, thus simplifying the management of company WANs. Furthermore, it’s an ideal choice for business-critical and cloud-based applications because it prioritizes these during heavy traffic loads and link failures.
While MPLS labels and isolates packets, allowing for reliable transmission across a company’s network, it doesn’t offer built-in data protection and remains prone to vulnerabilities. SD-WAN, on the other hand, offers comprehensive security features with encryption across a company’s network and the Internet.
MPLS costs are also prohibitive for bandwidth-heavy applications such as video, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality, and mixed reality, whereas it’s much simpler and more cost-effective to scale SD-WAN according to bandwidth requirements.
Here’s a quick rundown of SD-WAN key features: