Software-Defined Wide Area Network: Redefining What a Network Is?

Once upon a time, a network was a physical thing – a connection of cables and switches, routers and servers, workstations and firewalls. To an extent, that remains true today. However, things are changing and they’re evolving at an accelerating pace. The rise of software-defined wide area networks, or SD-WANs, is a prime example of this. What are SD-WANs and how are they redefining what the concept of what a network is?

What is SD-WAN? (Software Defined WAN)

Software-defined wide area networks represent the convergence of several things, including cloud computing, the rise of virtual technologies, and the concept of software-defined networking. Software-driven technology actually emerged within the data center industry, but has grown well beyond those bounds and today can be found within any environment where networks exist. These networks offer the ability to reduce the costs involved with connectivity, while also improving the reliability of communications technology for organizations and departments that rely on business intelligence and big data.

SD-WAN Capabilities and Advantages?

SD-WAN can offer a number of important advantages for businesses and organizations. One of the most crucial is their ability to cut bandwidth costs while enhancing reliability and performance for remote users, as well as Internet of Things devices. SD-WANs also offer improvements in security for these users and IoT devices, particularly when connected to commodity broadband networks.

The key to these capabilities is the fact that SD-WANs are able to forge a single, cohesive wide-area network out of a number of different inbound and outbound links, including old-school DSL, cable connections, mobile broadband connectivity, and more. Software Defined Network (SD-WAN) can do more than just provide a level playing field where these links interact. They create an environment that is able to adapt to fluctuations in traffic flow and resource demand, as well as network conditions based on real-time situations.

To put things in another way, SD-WANs disconnect the notion of what a network is from physical hardware. It enables the concept of “network” to expand beyond the limits of cables and switches, servers and routers. They deliver centralized control over a growing number of links and connections while creating a level playing field that automatically reflects changing demands and use needs on a real-time basis.

In short, SD-WANs are redefining the notion of what a network is and how it works.

Impact of SD-WANs on Organizations

We’ve hinted at some of the ways that SD-WANs are already impacting organizations around the world, but it bears a bit more scrutiny. One of the key takeaways here is that these software-defined wide area networks are changing how organizations communicate, and how they receive, manage, store and handle massive amounts of data from a wide range of sources, such as retail stores, remote users, branch offices, mobile users, manufacturing operations, and more.

The impact of SD-WANs will become even more apparent as next-generation technology becomes more and more entrenched in the workaday world. Blockchain technology, Internet of Things technology, augmented and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence will all become drivers of business intelligence, but present very real challenges for physical networks. SD-WANs promise to deliver a better way to manage the bandwidth shared by these technologies, streamlining operations, reducing the demand on resources, and improving the speed and reliability of communications.

However, there is a challenge with this technology. Organizations can only acquire it by either purchasing the edge and controller technology themselves and then managing it in-house, or by working with a partner that offers SD-WAN technology and is capable of managing on the organization’s behalf. Regardless of how it is delivered, though, SD-WAN promises to continue redefining the idea of what a network is.