What is SD-WAN?
SD-WAN is the techy acronym for software-defined wide-area network. Software-defined wide-area networks use software to control connectivity, management, and services between data centers and remote branches, or cloud instances. In other words, SD-WAN is a network that is removed from its hardware, thereby creating a virtualized network overlay. Operators can remotely manage this overlay, which may span over large geographical distances (hence the ‘wide-area’ in SD-WAN). An SD-WAN deployment can include existing routers and switches, or virtualized customer premises equipment (also known as vCPE) all running some version of software that handles policy, security, networking functions, and other management tools.
SD-WAN’s driving principle is to simplify the way large companies turn up new links to branch their offices, better manage how said links are utilized (whether it’s for data, voice, or video use), and potentially save money in the process. On a more technical level, SD-WAN promises a more optimized user experience when connecting to the virtual cloud and SaaS (another acronym meaning software-as-a-service) applications through features such as: diverse network link-bonding, automated and comprehensive security, failover and network resiliency, and real-time routing decisions.
A properly implemented software-defined wide-area network produces a high-performance, scalable, and cost-effective wide-area network that meets the needs of increasingly remote-end users in the cloud era, which in turn drives digital transformation.
The Role of 4G
The more cloud computing became the norm, the more applications and services modified and accommodated for enterprise convenience and flexibility. This was a gradual change that traditional wide area network (WAN) architectures couldn’t keep up with. Because of this, many organizations veered away from basic wide area networks to software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN) in order to achieve the highest levels of application performance and security. SD-WAN network technology could connect users directly and securely to applications through any basic transport, which includes 4G and broadband internet.
With SD-WAN, companies can deviate to a business-first networking model in which the network enables the business rather than forces it to conform to the constraints of pre-existing WAN approaches. Now, WAN serves as a business accelerant rather than a restraint, becoming fully automated, continuous, and giving every application the resources it truly needs.
As 4G LTE (short for fourth generation long-term evolution) commercialization continues to expand, its evolution transforming the entire mobile industry and setting the stage for the emergence of 5G, mobile connectivity becomes increasingly integrated with SD-WAN. This is because 4G LTE represents a very appealing transport alternative to connect users to critical business applications, especially considering 4G LTE may become the only option in locations where fixed lines aren’t available or accessible.
One of the best solutions SD-WAN brings to the table is that all capabilities of the SD-WAN platform can be supported across multiple LTE links, capabilities such as link bonding, dynamic path control, and path conditioning. This guarantees an always-consistent, always-available application performance—even during the event of an outage or degraded service.
5G Cellular SD-WAN
Wireless networks and mobile technology capabilities have evolved dramatically with LTE and, more recently, 5G. Operators around the world have been upgrading so swiftly that traffic demand has exploded with the rising consumer appetite for social media and data-intensive applications. The more equipped a network is to transfer large data sets at swifter speeds, the better. In order to keep up with this technological revolution reshaping the world around us, more and more businesses are relying on an SD-WAN network to best relay spreadsheets and customer data, and stream video, messaging, and social media information during their daily operations.
Cellular-based SD-WAN Benefits
There are a multitude of benefits that come with employing cellular-based SD-WAN. When it comes to location, there are more connectivity options across geographic boundaries than underground networks, and there’s easier flexibility to move with the branch to a new location in comparison to wired connections. There are also no necessary changes to apply to the network infrastructure when shifting from traditional WAN to SD-WAN.
Additional advantages provided by cellular-based SD-WAN are enhanced visibility, scalability, performance, and control. There is a strengthened security and network-wide encryption as well, and all of these benefits guarantee cellular-based SD-WAN to be very cost-effective.
With rising download and upload speeds available over every 5G network connection right now, it’s absolutely possible to envision SD-WAN solutions based on a variety of cellular data products replacing or being added to MPLS (short for Multiprotocol Label Switching) across corporate data centers, branch offices, and other corporate stations. Multiprotocol Label Switching refers to the data-forwarding technology that increases the speed and controls the flow of network traffic.
MPLS is designed to direct data through a path via labels rather than requiring complex lookups in a routing table at every stop. The higher speeds of 5G, particularly the quicker upload speeds, are the primary enabler for cellular SD-WAN becoming a mainstream option for enterprises.
Software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WANs) are expected to revolutionize how businesses connect with their chain of physical locations. They simplify and accelerate enterprise connectivity by combining several branch links with intelligent traffic directing across those same links and policy-driven management. Companies can exponentially lower the cost of their WAN services and reduce outages whether SD-WAN is deployed over public internet, LTE, 5G links, cloud-based private networks, or 5G with a mix of MPLS, public internet, and LTE.
What’s more, employees and partners in remote areas can achieve and benefit from this collaborative and knowledge-rich environment to better succeed. Despite it being an intimidating challenge, IoT frameworks performing on hefty SD-WAN networks will be more capable of establishing reliable connections and providing speeds necessary for more efficient and intelligent business operations based on data.