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How SD-WAN benefits app delivery

There are many SD-WAN benefits for the enterprise, including cost savings, better app delivery and more. Learn how to software define your wide area network.

Application performance over wide area networks has traditionally been overseen by quality-of-service policies applied across Layer 2 and Layer 3 services. But there is a new contender that's changing the application delivery landscape: software-defined WAN. The question is, what are the SD-WAN benefits for your applications?

As they are with all WAN delivery services, enterprises are primarily focused on application performance versus cost. Today, the internet is a viable option to connect corporate offices with performance comparable to MPLS or virtual private LAN service. But many system managers are still fearful of IP networking -- they fret that performance can't be guaranteed or remain consistent. The advent of SD-WAN -- which enables more dynamic and robust connections -- has brought fresh attention to the role IP networking can play.

Prime SD-WAN benefits

A prime SD-WAN benefit is how it prioritizes traffic in real time, relying on software-defined networking principles to determine the best way to route traffic. That's unlike quality of service, which relies on policies to determine performance. In addition, application performance is coupled with robust encryption, adding a level of security at the customer base. And because SD-WAN can dynamically harness all types of connectivity -- from 4G cellular to leased-lines and broadband -- it can incorporate a variety of technologies as it adjusts to changing traffic demands. With traditional WAN services, the typical reaction to improve application performance is to throw more bandwidth at the problem.

In addition to more efficiently accommodating ebbs and flows in traffic, SD-WAN services are more intelligent than traditional WAN services. They can adjust to users accessing the network from different locations and different devices -- treating each incident independently. SD-WAN services can also "learn" traffic patterns as they appear over time, making them more capable to meet changes in data flow. To that end, SD-WAN benefits include understanding how to prioritize traffic -- say, shifting traffic to secondary links as necessary to ensure that essential data gets precedence -- based on application type and requirements.

SD-WAN benefits outweigh concerns

You might wonder why enterprises would stay with their traditional WAN approach after learning about SD-WAN. Many organizations are leery of changing or restructuring their networks that have served them well for many years. There is also a fear of the unknown. MPLS and virtual private LAN service are well-known technologies; the internet and IP networking are a work in progress. Companies are also worried about how different provider networks might affect application performance as they move across multiple hops. That said, SD-WAN lets us do more with less.

SD-WAN provides other benefits to IT managers overseeing application performance. In one device (physical or virtual), the business receives routing, WAN path selection, application performance, WAN acceleration, a firewall and an IPsec VPN gateway that ensures traffic remains secure. All of this adds up to application confidence.

Once deployed, SD-WAN provides the ability to treat and service applications on a per-user, per-location basis. With certain caveats, deployment of SD-WAN benefits corporate budgets by offering significant cost benefits to enterprises managing application performance. In many scenarios, these implementations boast more features than their private WAN counterparts.

Next Steps

Learn more about SD-WAN and its effect on the future of WAN optimization

Should you consider a managed SD-WAN service?

This was last published in August 2016

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