SD-WAN and SDN: what’s the difference?
The complementary nature of SD-WAN and MPLS should now be clear. Which brings us to the next comparison for which customers may require clarification: the difference between SD-WAN and SDN.
As SD-WAN becomes more widespread, it is easily confused with its predecessor, the still-relevant and useful SDN. SD-WAN and SDN share similarities, most notably their separation of the control plane and data plane, and they both support the implementation of additional virtual network functions.
SD-WAN has its own set of distinguishing features:
- SD-WAN provides software-defined application routing to the WAN.
- An enterprise’s locations, spread out over a large geographic area (even on a global scale) can be easily and quickly connected using SD-WAN, connecting data centers, remote and mobile users, as well as headquarters and branch offices.
- While SDN is programmed and configured by the customer or user, SD-WAN programming may be managed by customer or vendor, making it a simpler option for the end user.
- SD-WAN’s focus is on connecting users across a geographic span, while SDN is concentrated on the local area network.
- SD-WAN is routable through software-defined applications that can be run virtually, and SDN is enabled by network function virtualization.
- SD-WAN is an application-based routing system, rather than a traditional, packet-based network routing system.
- SD-WAN allows for a centralized application routing governance, while improving both agility and flexibility.
Overall, SD-WAN simplifies network management for the end user, allowing IT professionals to focus on other areas of technology management.
- Add encryption to your customer’s WAN transport. When they choose SD-WAN, companies have access to low-cost broadband and can encrypt all internet flow to each site without the need for administrators to make manual configuration changes to routers after each change to the network.
- Many providers offer basic – and some offer next generation – firewall at the branch. Customers may be able to reduce capital expense and management of aging, existing firewalls and replace with SD-WAN appliances.
- Make sure your client’s cloud connection is secure. Every time they transfer sensitive data over the internet to get to the cloud service, it’s an opportunity for a security breach. All of the inherent risks associated with cloud solutions are mitigated by SD-WAN.
- Meet compliance requirements. The rules governing healthcare and financial services, including HIPAA or PCI data security, fit perfectly with SD-WAN technology. SD-WAN allows the enterprise to create virtual overlays to segment applications traffic.
- Create secure segmentation. Segmentation allows the IT team to isolate application traffic for security purposes or to work with specific performance requirements. Segmentation with SD-WAN allows for consistency of configurations and best practices defined and enforced through business intent policies.
With security becoming a growing IT cost, we anticipate more customers selecting an SD-WAN technology to create a secure and manageable cloud-based environment.
Even beyond the advantages seen in network security, the benefits of implementing SD-WAN are numerous. Many companies are adding SD-WAN into their existing MPLS systems rather than switching them, creating a hybrid SD-WAN situation.
There are many determinations that have to be worked through before an enterprise can go live with an SD-WAN hybrid:
- The company has to decide which type of internet traffic is set to go over certain lines by default, and which conditions will dictate another line.
- If a line is down, it must be determined how the internet traffic will be prioritized until additional lines are available.
- An SD-WAN component allows traffic to flow freely between the cloud and the enterprise, but no longer between branches of the enterprise, so it offers a much better situation for internet traffic flow.
- In many situations, a bundling of managed services strikes the right balance without introducing unnecessary complexity.
SD-WAN is essentially being added to existing MPLS configurations to eliminate complexity and create differentiation. But what’s really driving the adoption of SD-WAN? The cloud.