SD-WAN vs. Traditional WAN
What are the two technologies and how are they different?
Articles published December 13, 2017 by Heather Fogle
The switch to a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is becoming an increasingly popular option to businesses worldwide. In fact, the International Data Corporation predicts that the SD-WAN market will reach $8 billion by 2021.
Research from Forrester reveals that 64 percent of U.S. organizations are planning on implementing SD-WAN in the next year.
However, leveraging traditional WAN technology is still a valid and reliable way to deliver and receive network services. In some cases, a hybrid approach with both in play can be the most beneficial. It really depends on the needs and unique situation of each organization.
Let’s back up. What are the two technologies and how are they different?
To give you a clear comparison of both traditional WAN and SD-WAN, here’s a closer look at each one.
Traditional WAN technology has long been the go-to for IT, voice, and data networking infrastructure. A traditional WAN connects multiple local area networks (LANs) to each other through routers and virtual private networks (VPN), and is used for connecting organizations that have more than one location. Traditional WANs mostly rely on multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), which provides resilient and efficient network traffic flow. This allows you to prioritize the voice, video, and data traffic on your network.
SD-WAN is a unique approach to wide area networking because it combines traditional WAN technologies, such as MPLS and broadband connections. This allows organizations to route traffic to remote locations and multiple offices, and provides enhanced capabilities for monitoring and managing network traffic while reducing networking costs. SD-WAN measures the traffic and selects the best route for each data packet in real-time.
With SD-WAN, organizations can connect all of their offices to a central network in the cloud, which can increase control and flexibility.
According to Gartner, there are four key components to SD-WAN:
- A lightweight replacement for traditional WAN routers that are agnostic to WAN transport (i.e., support MPLS, internet, LTE, etc.) and can physically terminate carrier circuits.
- Support for load sharing of traffic across multiple WAN connections in an efficient and dynamic fashion that can be based on business and/or application policies.
- SD-WAN solutions dramatically simplify the complexity associated with management, configuration and orchestration of WANs. The level of expertise required to configure the branch is akin to what is required to setup a basic home wireless network with consumer-grade equipment.
- SD-WAN solutions must provide secure VPN and have the ability to integrate additional network services (i.e., firewall, Wan Optimization, SWG etc.).
Reliability and Prioritization
Overall, traditional WANs running over MPLS offer great Quality of Service (QoS), since they avoid packet loss by virtually isolating packets. Most of the time, this is run over one carrier-grade circuit connection. One thing to keep in mind though is that MPLS bandwidth like this is typically more expensive.
Prioritizing what traffic gets higher priority is essential, helping organizations ensure their calls aren’t dropped. Traditional WAN technology allows for prioritization and can give you that traffic predictability and reliability.
Research reveals that internet costs can be reduced with SD-WAN. This is due to the fact that you don’t have to pay as much to upgrade your bandwidth, along with the ability to cost-effectively mix and match network links, according to the content type and priority. SD-WAN can run on 4G LTE and internet broadband, which is typically less expensive than service delivered via an MPLS network.
SD-WAN allows you to send your most important data traffic over the best network link, along with dozens of application prioritization options. This leads to little or no latency and packet loss. Additionally, if an outage occurs, your traffic is switched over to another connection instantly.
Traditional WAN is also considered secure. Over an MPLS connection, packets that are sent are private, and can only be seen by the destined MPLS connection, allowing site-to-site secure communication.
SD-WAN keeps your data traffic secure by providing end-to-end encryption over a virtual private network (VPN) connection. This technology also allows you to easily implement and integrate additional security layers, such as a firewall and related services for unified threat management.
Control and Scalability
When changes to your traditional WAN are needed, it has to be done manually. This can take longer and decrease efficiency for growing businesses—especially those adding branch offices.
Ultimately, the decision between traditional WAN and SD-WAN depends on your organization’s situation and current infrastructure. Many organizations are making the switch to SD-WAN, but everyone’s circumstances are different. It comes down to what will be more beneficial for your short-term objectives and long-term needs.
How could SD-WAN benefit your business?