SD-WAN Benefits: Transforming Networking with Cost Efficiency & Flexibility

SD-WAN benefits are transforming network management, offering cost-efficiency and flexibility. This article explores how SD-WAN, through its cloud-based, software-defined approach, provides an affordable alternative to MPLS connections and revolutionizes networking hardware management.

Summary of Benefits of SD-WAN over Traditional Environment
Benefit Description
Cost Reduction SD-WAN eliminates the need for expensive MPLS line installations, allowing businesses to use existing broadband connections for secure networking. Furthermore, virtualized Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) reduces the need for onsite hardware installation and maintenance.
Flexibility and Responsiveness Through virtualization, businesses can remotely alter configurations and add services as needed, increasing responsiveness to changing needs. SD-WAN serves as a flexible platform that can host a variety of enterprise managed services.
Traffic Prioritization SD-WAN enables prioritization of different applications and their traffic, allowing for efficient utilization of network resources and ensuring that business-critical data is prioritized.
Security Despite not requiring a secure MPLS line, SD-WAN offers robust security through encryption and VPNs. Vendors often bundle SD-WAN solutions with additional security features.

SD-WAN Benefit #1: Significant Cost Reduction

From an enterprise customer’s point of view, when they buy Wide Area Networking (WAN), what they are buying is a secure connectivity between their different sites. To enable that with WAN technology, they need a secure line to be installed. To achieve this, enterprises have to pay their service provider a lot of money to come to their site and install a secure MPLS line. Not only is this expensive, it must be done for every new site and when you start to connect various components together. On top of this you need to add the equipment that will sit on your site. With SD-WAN, you can achieve the same outcome but run it over the public internet instead.

Ensuring the setup is secure is dealt with by the software itself. The result is that an existing broadband connection can be used to provide the same level of service, so as long as you’ve got a phone line, you can deliver reliability without the need for the hardware.

There’s also the benefit that the equipment that is used for this, Customer Premise Equipment (CPE), is virtualized equipment. Everything that runs on it is purely software. It can be configured and changed from afar without the need to pay for an engineer to physically come out and deal with the box or install new hardware.

On top of this is the other functionality that depends on the service. Because it’s software-defined, you can manage and configure it all through a web portal, which ultimately means less time spent by businesses sitting on a phone requesting changes.

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SD-WAN Benefit #2: Unparalleled Flexibility and Responsiveness

If you’re using virtualized equipment, you can change the configuration from afar and can potentially add whatever you like to that piece of equipment. For example, if you’ve bought SD-WAN you may also be interested in buying a managed printer server solution.

In theory, this is possible because it’s just software. That software could run on the same box that you already have in the corner of your room or in your office. All you need to do is either bring up the service or go on the web portal.

This was not possible before. If you wanted new software, it would necessitate new hardware. With SD-WAN, there’s the potential for it to become a generic box where any enterprise managed service can be loaded onto it in much the same way as with an app. The result is considerably enhanced flexibility.

While the potential for this type of solution is exciting, the current lack of innovative new apps to go on it is an issue. The existing offerings include firewalls to keep it secure or a print server. In the future we could see much more interesting applications being offered.

SD-WAN Benefit #3: Effective Traffic Prioritization

SD-WAN can be used for better prioritization of different apps and the traffic they send back and forth. Because this is software-defined, it’s possible to have software policies that analyse bits of traffic that are going through and determine what is and is not important.

The software could send business critical traffic through the MPLS line, while a simple WhatsApp message could be sent through the public internet. It’s less important that a WhatsApp message gets there within a millisecond, therefore sending via the public internet is advantageous as it is cheaper but still just as effective for the business. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that the performance is better with SD-WAN, it does mean that you can assure the performance of the things that matter.

One possible downside is that the equipment used to run network functions is fine-tuned and engineered specifically for its purpose, and as such it performs very well. If it is to be emulated using software on a generic computer, it will never work quite as well as something that has been designed for a dedicated purpose.

This has slowed the adoption of SD-WAN because while the potential is significant, businesses still require it to operate at the same level as before. At some point there will be a middle ground where performance is close enough to what we have now, but with the additional possibilities that SD-WAN offers.

SD-WAN Benefit #4: Robust Security Solutions

Traditional WAN solutions have always been bought alongside a secure MPLS line. With SD-WAN, this is not necessary. This doesn’t mean that it’s not secure, but it does mean that extra considerations must be taken to ensure security, because traffic will be travelling over the same network infrastructure as all the other traffic in the world (that is going over).

That’s not necessarily a problem because you can set up encryption and VPNs to provide security. Because this an area that enterprise customers are justifiably concerned about, vendors pay close attention to delivering a secure solution and typically bundle SD-WAN solutions in with added security features.

Summing Up: The Unmistakable Value of SD-WAN Benefits

In conclusion, the key takeaway here is the plethora of SD-WAN benefits, which offer a more affordable and flexible networking solution. With potential to deliver the same advantages as traditional environments, and yet more cost-effectively and with greater flexibility, it’s clear to see why SD-WAN is emerging as an upgrade that enterprises are adopting. We invite you to explore further the benefits of SD-WAN and consider how this transformative technology can reshape your business’s approach to networking, yielding significant cost savings and improved operational efficiency.

Yesmean Luk

Yesmean Luk

Yesmean Luk

Principal Consultant

Yesmean is a Senior Consultant at STL Partners and has led and managed client projects with both operators and technology companies across a number of domains, including private networks, telco cloud, network slicing, edge computing and IoT. Before joining STL, she held various consulting roles at Deloitte and IBM. She holds a Global MSc in Management from the London School of Economics, specialising in strategy and international business.

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