What is SD-branch?

SD-branch is a single, automated, centrally managed software-centric platform that replaces or supplements an existing branch network architecture. Remote or branch offices are critical yet challenging elements for most centralized IT organizations.

A natural successor in the evolution of software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs), SD-branch simplifies the process of branching networks by collapsing multiple network functionalities onto a single platform. Enterprises typically deploy SD-branch in greenfield locations or as an upgrade or replacement for branch office boxes in smaller branches, such as regional offices, stores, banks or kiosks.

SD-branch components

As branch networking becomes more focused on application delivery, IT organizations have multiple options regarding the future of branch routers. Some of those options are the following:

  • Keep the traditional branch router.
  • Phase out the branch router in favor of SD-WAN technology that includes routing functionality.
  • Migrate to an SD-branch service that consolidates a range of network functionality into a single platform by using software.

Regardless of the implementation, all SD-branch technology relies upon the following:

  • A virtualized IP services platform that provides cloud-like elasticity, service chaining and programmability.
  • A broad set of virtual network functions to deliver extensive networking and security IP services.
  • A centralized management framework that enables integrated control, management, analytics and workflow.
Chart comparing SD-branch and SD-WAN
Compare SD-branch with SD-WAN.

SD-branch advantages

SD-branch offers advantages in terms of rapid deployment -- such as branch-in-a-box -- lower hardware costs and operational expenditure benefits. Other benefits of SD-branch technology include the following:

  • Improved operational agility.
  • Reduced need for skilled support and maintenance professionals on site.
  • Centralized control of a branch office's network architecture through a single pane of glass.
  • Smaller hardware footprint.
  • Lower power consumption.

The future of SD-branch

Organizations could phase out their existing branch routers in favor of SD-WAN packages, and customers will have the option to buy SD-branch services. These services can support broader network features, including SD-WAN, routing, security and Wi-Fi. For organizations that choose managed SD-WAN from a service provider, options will be defined by the service provider.

Vendors with SD-branch products and services include the following:

  • Cisco.
  • Citrix.
  • Cradlepoint.
  • Dell.
  • HPE Aruba.
  • Juniper Networks.
  • Nokia.
  • Silver Peak.
  • Versa Networks.
  • VMware.

Editor's note: This article was republished in March 2023 to improve the reader experience.

This was last updated in March 2023

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