Software-defined networking has driven huge change in the data centre, so it only makes sense that it's adopted in other areas of the business with the wide area network the next obvious choice.
The industry has coined the term Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) as the next evolution of wide area networking and it shares the same benefits used in the data centre but applied to wide area and branch networking.
With SD-WAN, the business VPN service is separated from the network transport. This allows customers to benefit from the operational efficiencies of centralised policy management (just as SDN provides in the data centre), whist increasing their options on the supplier of their branch bandwidth.
They can choose from all available service providers across a wide range of network services such as fixed copper or fibre services, IP-VPN, Internet or even mobile broadband. The SD-WAN provides the overlay service across these access technologies to link the branch locations to the business applications.
The immediate benefit is speed. For instance, if a new branch location is needed but there is a delay in getting the IP-VPN service extended to that location, an SD-WAN connection can be deployed over mobile broadband or Internet access and securely (encrypted) connected to the business.
Another popular use of SD-WAN is to utilise multiple connections from the branch with premium business traffic carried over IP-VPN and non-critical traffic carried over the Internet.
In this case, High-Definition video conferencing can be deployed, while using low cost/high bandwidth Internet services to provide the connection. The SD-WAN will select the best path out of the office based on the traffic type (critical business or video conferencing/web browsing) and encrypt accordingly.
With SDN gaining in applicability across the business network, it’s important to consider its functionality with an end-to-end view. With applications residing in the data centre and the application end-users residing within the branch environment, the maximum benefit of SDN will be with a solution that seamlessly covers both domains.
Article by James McInroe, Nuage Networks marketing director