3 SD-WAN myths (and the real story behind them)

The growth of software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) has created new opportunities for distributed enterprises to better manage their WAN environments, but it has also given rise to several incorrect assumptions about the technology and how it’s used.

It’s something that happens with any new technology. As the technology gains attention and acceptance in the market, some misconceptions about it are also bound to spring up.

Here are three of the biggest myths that surround SD-WAN … and the real story behind them:

#1: Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) will be entirely replaced by public Internet transport connections

The real story: The reasoning behind the rumored demise of MPLS is essentially along the lines of enterprises wanting to solely use cheaper public Internet connections, but the strength of SD-WAN is in using multiple types of connection links (including MPLS and the Internet).

As the foundational transport connection for more than 15 years, MPLS has been a central element of most enterprise WANs, but it’s expensive. Internet connections are a fraction of the price, but they’re often less reliable. SD-WAN solutions can intelligently route traffic based on several factors, including availability, bandwidth, type of application and Quality of Service.

Relying solely on one connection technology defeats part of the purpose of SD-WAN. Instead, enterprises can use SD-WAN to ensure they’re getting the best combination of user experience and economics at any time, no matter which path the software has directed the traffic. Depending on the application or business need, that “best connection” often is MPLS.

#2: SD-WAN makes WANs much more complicated

The real story: enterprise networking infrastructure is becoming increasingly more complex, but SD-WAN technology aims to simplify WAN architectures and management. Sure, it may seem more complex at the outset of any SD-WAN deployment project, but the technology aims to simplify WAN management in an increasingly complicated world.

As noted by TechTarget, there’s a belief that overlay networks make network virtualization more complex. The article quoted Brad Casemore, research director for data center networks at IDC, who indicated overlay network technologies make it simpler because of the way the network is being managed.

Instead of managing from the network up, the article noted that SD-WAN overlay networks enable a different style of management — from the application down important source. According to Casemore, it’s a difference that ensures the network delivers services more efficiently while also reducing costs.

#3: The only benefit to be gained is lower costs

The real story: The most commonly noted benefit of SD-WAN solutions is the ability to gain cost savings by offsetting the use of more expensive MPLS networks with cheaper Internet transport. But it’s far from the only benefit — and in the long term, it likely won’t be the strongest driver for SD-WAN deployments.

SD-WAN changes the core architecture of the WAN, shifting from a hardware-centric model to a software- and application-driven one. An SD-WAN architecture is equipped with greater intelligence than more traditional WAN technology. To better enable the applications delivered by the network, SD-WAN makes more proactive (rather than reactive) decisions to ensure high performance and service levels across the WAN. With increased network capacity and connectivity options, thanks to the ability to use multiple links simultaneously, SD-WAN also improves the quality of intensive applications, including unified communications and videoconferencing.

Additionally, because in more advanced SD-WAN solutions the software has been detached from the hardware, it provides the IT networking department with more flexibility in how they configure and deploy the WAN.

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