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6 Questions To Ask When Considering SD-WAN Technology

SD-WAN is one of those technologies that quickly evolved from being a convenient tool to a virtual necessity, particularly given the digitization of business.

The Meteoric Rise of SD-WAN

Gartner has predicted that by 2023, “more than 90% of WAN edge infrastructure refreshes” will use SD-WAN architecture. Today, it’s only around 40%. The shift towards SD-WAN is particularly logical when you consider the growing prevalence of edge devices and architectures.

Because SD-WAN can control how data flows through your network, a setup with multiple edge devices benefits from the optimization potential SD-WAN brings. Furthermore, with SD-WAN’s ability to manage workflows, you can use it to get more bang for your buck with both edge and centralized network architectures.

Gartner SD-WAN Predictions

1. What Can You Do with SD-WAN?

The potential benefits of SD-WAN, when applied to a range of existing architectures, is the fuel skyrocketing its popularity. However, the SD-WAN movement is about far more than that. It’s about how SD-WAN can redefine what’s possible on a networking level—shifting current limitations and shattering glass ceilings looming over network performance.

For example, many companies are considering allowing more employees to work remotely. How can you make sure data flows are optimized with fluctuating numbers of people logging in? SD-WAN. If the IP addresses allowed by your firewall have to be updated, can it be done automatically and instantly? Yes, with SD-WAN.

If some employees are using a bandwidth-heavy app while others are doing work with minimal bandwidth requirements, can you apportion more bandwidth to those using the demanding app? Sure, with SD-WAN.

A Personalized SD-WAN Solution

Regardless of what you want to do with SD-WAN, PivIT is here to make it easy. PivIT can source the best equipment for your SD-WAN architecture. PivIT can also use your business model and plans for growth to help you choose which units provide the performance you need. Further, with OneCall, all your components, both new and legacy, get comprehensive coverage.

Explore OneCall Coverage

An understanding of SD-WAN can not only make your business apps run more efficiently, but will likely help you conceive new architectures or technologies that can make your business smarter and more profitable. So let’s take a step back and discuss the basics of SD-WAN and look at our second question.

2. SD-WAN Explained: What Is SD-WAN?

Simply put, SD-WAN involves using software to control how data moves through a WAN, or wide area network. This raises our third question…

What Is a Wide Area Network (WAN)?

In your house, you probably have a local area network (LAN). There’s a Wi-Fi router and you can connect your devices to it, including things like a printer or your TV. You may also be able to print straight from your laptop to your printer without connecting to it. That’s because it’s connected to your local area network. A WAN is simply a network that connects two or more LANs.

For example, your office may have a LAN that printers, computers, and other devices connect to. That LAN may have a server that holds information and processes that you need to run your business. If you were to set up another office and you wanted people over there to be able to access that server, you’d set up a WAN between the two offices.

Why Would You Need Software to "Define" a WAN?

Software intelligently controls the way data travels across a WAN. In short, software makes your network smart.

Suppose you get invited to your friend Bob’s house, and Bob wants you to cook dinner. Bob lives 10 miles away, and the grocery store is a mile from his house. Would it make sense to drive all the way to the grocery store, buy the ingredients, drive back to your house, and then go 10 miles back to Bob’s house with the ingredients? Definitely not.

If you did, Bob would probably be like, “Ummm… Why don’t you just go to the store then come straight to my house?” This would make sense, saving time, fuel, and eliminating a ton of potential delays, especially if Bob asks you to make dessert, too, which would require another trip to the grocery store.

In this situation, you are like data, and Bob is the software that tells you how to move. In the world of business, data needs to move efficiently. This is because users need to be able to run web-based apps and consume content with as little latency and inefficiencies as possible.

SD-WAN architecture diagram from a data center to various branches

If a company uses a web service like AWS, DropBox, WorkDay, Azure, or others, it wouldn’t make sense for data to have to travel from company headquarters to a user, then to the web service, then back to headquarters, then back to the web service, then back to the user. That’s too many trips.

It makes more sense for the user to be able to interact with the web service directly because it saves trips. Fewer trips equal less latency, which equals smoother, more reliable performance. Software can be used to tell the data where to go, how, and when. In that way, the software “defines” the way data flows within the WAN.

3. How Does SD-WAN Work?

SD-WAN can exert detailed, granular control of data because where the data resides and where it’s controlled are separated. Where the data resides is called the data plane. Where it’s controlled is called the control plane. With SD-WAN, the control plane is an app and it tells the data where to go.

SD-WAN interconnection with different interfaces from a network edge

In old-fashioned WAN setups, you’d have routers that both moved the data and told it where to go. The data and control planes were in the same place: on the router. Telling the data where to go involved an IT person typing commands into each router, telling it where to send the data it receives.

Now, imagine if a company had 200 places it had to send data, and each of those locations had to forward it somewhere else. That’s a lot of commands. The IT person would probably quit. Programs were developed to make data entry easier, but a small mistake could mean hours or days wasted trying to track down the command that messed everything up.

Enter SD-WAN. The software exists on a central control plane, and from that one screen, you can control the flow of all data across the entire WAN.

4. What Else Can SD-WAN Do?

With SD-WAN, you can control data the way that bald woman with the wires coming out of her head controlled the Borg. You tell it where to go, when, and how. You set up rules and tweak and redefine them any way you want.

For example, if you have several locations and they all need to use specific business-critical apps, you can define which apps send data directly to which location. If one location needs direct access to a customer relationship management (CRM) system, but another needs direct access to a data center housing a unified communications setup, you can route the data accordingly.

Further, if the unified communications infrastructure interfaces with data in the CRM, you can set up rules that make that exchange more efficient, too.

Or suppose you notice that your workers are wasting too much time on social media apps while on the network. You can set up a rule that blocks them from using those apps.

Or perhaps streaming video from YouTube is taking up too much bandwidth, especially during important video conferences. No problem. Use your SD-WAN to set up a rule that de-prioritizes YouTube traffic and prioritizes Zoom traffic.

You can also experiment with ways of routing data in your main office, and once you get it right, you can send that rule out to all the other offices in just a few seconds.

What we know is that you can use SD-WAN in a variety of use cases. Take a look at how companies in various industries have used SD-WAN and network automation in their IT ecosystems.

Explore More About SD-WAN

SD-WAN and Your Business

You can use SD-WAN to control pretty much all data flowing through your network, including that which customers interact with.

For instance, if your business stores sensitive customer information on the same server as a business-critical app, you can move the sensitive information to a more secure place and use SD-WAN to still make sure the data is available when needed.

Or if you have a series of mobile Internet of Things (IoT) devices working off an LTE network, you can control how data flows to each device, from where, and when, perhaps based on priority rules.

Do you want certain traffic on your network routed through a firewall but other traffic allowed to pass straight through? SD-WAN can do that. In this way, you can use SD-WAN to enhance security—or even track down an internal hacker, just by changing the rules from one convenient, centralized screen.

In short, SD-WAN makes you the puppet master over the marionette of your business’ data. The possibilities are literally endless. If you’re ready to implement an SD-WAN solution, PivIT can source the hardware you need and help you choose the best SD-WAN architecture for your business. With PivIT’s EXTEND, you can get help configuring, setting up, and troubleshooting your installations. Further, with OneCall, you can maintain and support all your hardware, choosing the SLA that works best for your needs.

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