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Which SD-WAN features truly comprise SD-WAN technology?

How do you protect your organization and network against SD-WAN washing? Here are four key SD-WAN features that your system must have in order to be called SD-WAN.

Vendors' marketing efforts often try to link the latest technology trends to existing products that may not fully support the technologies being touted. In cloud computing, for example, the term cloud-enabled is attached to products whether or not their underlying foundations are truly cloud-based, leading to a practice called cloud washing.

Similarly, SD-WAN washing is vendors improperly claiming software-defined WAN capabilities on products that do not fully support all the SD-WAN features necessary for your WAN to work properly.

For a product to be a true SD-WAN, it needs four key functions.

First, the WAN connection must be virtualized. There must be a layer of abstraction between the WAN functions and the physical device. When virtualized, the WAN layer runs as an overlay above the physical WAN hardware, enabling that connection to be easily moved across different physical devices or managed remotely without having to reprogram the physical underlying device.

Second, policy oversight must be centralized. For a true SD-WAN, the policies should be managed in a central repository, where they can be distributed to the different SD-WAN devices as needed.

Third, orchestration is necessary. With the WAN virtualized and policies centralized, the SD-WAN will need the ability to orchestrate changes from a single location. It does no good to have a centralized repository if each connection must be maintained individually.

Finally, SD-WAN features must include the ability to dynamically manage traffic. This means the SD-WAN can route traffic over multiple physical connections as needed, based on rules that can be easily set and maintained. While individual, manual overrides may be feasible, the SD-WAN must be able to dynamically manage itself based on network needs.

If all of these capabilities are present, it is a true SD-WAN. If some are missing, then it's just a case of a vendor trying to SD-WAN wash its product. Its SD-WAN feature set is incomplete.

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