SD-branch is a single, automated, centrally managed software-centric platform that replaces or supplements an existing branch network architecture. Networking the remote or branch office (ROBO) is a critical, yet challenging, element for most centralized information technology (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/replacement for branch office boxes (Bobs) 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. These include keeping the traditional branch router, phasing out the branch router in favor of SD-WAN technology that includes routing functionality, or migrating to an SD-branch service that consolidates a range of network functionality onto a single platform by using software. Regardless of the implementation, all SD-branch technology relies upon: 

  1. A virtualized internet protocol (IP) services platform that provides cloud-like elasticity, service chaining and programmability.
  2. A broad set of virtual network functions (VNFs) to deliver extensive networking and security IP services.
  3. A centralized management framework that allows integrated control, management, analytics and workflow.

SD-branch advantages

SD-branch offers advantages in terms of rapid deployment (branch-in-a-box), lower hardware costs and operational expenditure (Opex) benefits. Other benefits of SD-branch technology include:

  • 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

It is expected that many organizations will phase out their existing branch routers in favor of SD-WAN packages over the next few years and customers will have the option to buy SD-branch services with support for broader network features, including SD-WAN, routing, security and Wi-Fi. For organizations choosing managed SD-WAN from a service provider, options will be defined by the service provider. 

In 2020, expect to see an increased number of suppliers that offer SD-branch services, as well as improvements in integration and management quality of existing products. Vendors involved in creating SD-branch products and services include Cisco, VMware, Dell, Nokia, Juniper Networks, HPE Aruba, Cradlepoint, Citrix, Silver Peak, VMware, Talari and Versa Networks.

This was last updated in January 2020

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