As the pace of digital transformation has accelerated, so too has the use of digital technologies. Key among them is the use of software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technologies, which decouple networking hardware from their control mechanisms, making traditionally rigid IT infrastructure easier to manipulate using software. In general, SD-WAN is more flexible than traditional private wide area networks. Instead of using dedicated circuits for data exchange, it uses software to create encrypted tunnels over the Internet.
SD-WAN is one of the most popular, fast-growing segments of the enterprise network market. For 2023, IDC foresees year-over-year revenue growth of 17% to 5.3 billion, with the market reaching nearly $7.2 billion in 2026. Here are the five most common use cases for SD-WAN and how its network modernization capabilities can benefit your business.
With remote work now a common workforce practice, IT teams are deploying SD-WAN solutions to address some of these needs. This use case relates to remote users who need service availability, which requires SD-WAN’s advanced service optimization tools for network performance and reliability. Examples include executives, financial traders, contact center agents, and telemedicine professionals.
The usual approach for these remote work use cases is to deploy a lightweight, low-cost SD-WAN hardware appliance in the home office that’s easy to install and manage. The device enables dynamic connectivity across multiple public network services or transports, such as broadband or cellular. To help improve performance, it has protocol capabilities like voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or virtual private network (VPN) to improve performance.
Solutions also cater to mobile users with a software-based solution delivering VPN connectivity with enhanced, cloud-native security.
A seamless connectivity experience for users needing secure remote access to the corporate network Improved cloud application performance for those using home Internet, public WiFi or mobile cellular services to connect The same security protocols used in the office can be applied to the remote workforce
For some midsize-to-large companies, securing the WAN and branch offices are high priorities. Examples include financial services, healthcare, government, and regulated industries. In these cases, procuring security and network services together in one solution is far simpler. SD-WAN and secure access service edge (SASE) solutions are particularly beneficial because they are considered converged solutions uniting WAN connectivity with several overlapping security capabilities.
Typically, security-focused enterprises enjoy SD-WAN services that integrate well with network firewalls, intrusion protection systems (IPS’s), antivirus software, and URL and content filtering solutions. In addition, buyers may consider advanced SASE security solutions, e.g., secure web gateways (SWGs), cloud access service brokers (CASBs), sandboxing, Zero Trust network access (ZTNA), and data loss prevention. (DLP).
Fewer vendors and technologies to manage.
Fully managed services can remove the burden of 24/7 threat detection and response.
Integrated solutions bring network and security insights together for accelerated management and decision making.
Cloud-based technologies like SaaS and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) are so common today that networks must serve as an on-ramp to the cloud. This is where SD-WAN can help.
Sometimes referred to as a cloud-first approach to SD-WAN, these use cases include organizations where users, workloads, and resources are primarily in the cloud, but some are still on-premises.
The cloud-first SD-WAN solution aims to support flexible, easy, automated, and high-performing cloud access. In some cases, companies won’t always want to accept the performance of the public Internet to connect their cloud resources. The SD-WAN solution employs a direct connection to the cloud to realize this objective, accessing cloud service providers and SaaS applications, along with automation, orchestration, and optimization capabilities.
Enhance business continuity with improved cloud application performance and IaaS service reliability.
Variable connectivity configurations allow WAN transport to be Internet-only or get enhanced performance with private connectivity.
SD-WAN’s flexibility allows companies to slowly migrate to a cloud-only approach, eventually closing their on-premises infrastructure.
SD-WAN is an effective solution for deploying WAN services to small branch locations because it enables scalability by standardizing and therefore accelerating deployment processes. This use case typically involves a large-scale deployment of similar, if not identical, “cookie cutter” WAN instances across anywhere from 10 to over 10,000 locations. Companies managing many branches recognize the ease of use and automation but also find SD-WAN helpful in allowing remote network management, as some companies prefer not to have on-site IT staff.
Examples include fast food restaurants, convenience stores, franchises, or banks where the small branch office leverages SD-WAN to access primary business applications, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. The underlying connection for small branch SD-WANs is usually the Internet, often using xDSL, Ethernet, cable, LTE/5G, or very-small-aperture terminal (VSAT) satellite links.
SD-WAN can be programmed with connectivity templates for rapid deployment.
Cost-effective public Internet connectivity helps keep costs low.
Integrated orchestration of local area networks (LANs) and wireless LANs (WLAN) simplifies security and management—enabling further cost savings.
To minimize capital expenditures, customers use managed network services.
Large organizations, such as multinational businesses, may find deploying SD-WAN as their global WAN helpful. These WANs may span as many as 100 or more sites, often across multiple continents. With such geographic dispersion, customers need more WAN reliability as well as SaaS performance improvements in some cases. SD-WAN’s optimization technologies are critical for these companies to increase business continuity and enhance the quality of the digital service experience.
A large global SD-WAN usually comprises sites with private circuits coupled with less-critical sites that run only on Internet circuits. The use case involves routing traffic to on-premises data centers as well as the cloud.
SD-WAN’s intelligent routing and bandwidth resource management tools provide a high-quality experience so users can get on the public Internet and help avoid congestion, latency, and packet loss.
SD-WAN makes managing highly distributed environments easier, bringing end-to-end visibility alongside real-time bandwidth controls into a single dashboard.
Comprehensive network security is also simplified when SD-WAN solutions bring a surrounding set of security services — particularly 24/7 threat detection and response to accompany firewalls.
It’s clear why SD-WAN is an IT infrastructure technology fit for many of today’s purposes. From small cloud-first businesses to global enterprises, SD-WAN and SASE services are increasingly being used to connect remote users, cloud resources, and enterprise locations.
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Dive into the most common use cases for Software-defined Wide Area Networking.