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The SD-WAN Architecture: An Overview

Unlike a traditional architecture that relies on total hardwired network devices, SD-WAN leverages software to provide a virtual approach to orchestration and operations. It decouples low-level packet control from networking hardware to allow centralized management and simpler configurations. Intelligent fabric with session awareness delivers a unified view of application performance across all sites and branches. It can also automatically identify and prioritize sessions based on criticality.

Enhanced Security

SD-WAN enables enterprises to connect distributed architectures with high-performance network connectivity securely. It creates a logical overlay on top of physical networks. It allows businesses to move applications from central data centers to the local network and cloud infrastructure or applications to remote locations. It offers cost savings and agility as a WAN alternative to traditional MPLS. A centralized SD-WAN controller can control traffic across multiple sites to deliver consistent application performance, resiliency and security while providing visibility, ensuring the best return on investment.

In addition to reducing latency, packet loss and jitter in the WAN, an advanced WAN solution enables a more reliable cloud experience by delivering more direct connections from the branches to trusted IaaS and SaaS providers. By connecting directly, businesses can avoid expensive MPLS circuits and get access to lower-cost bandwidth.

Unlike basic solutions, a business-driven SD-WAN understands the characteristics of each application and optimizes traffic on an application basis. It ensures that all applications receive the highest levels of performance and QoE, even if WAN transport services are down or underperforming. The technology also provides a level of security that goes beyond basic routing protocols. It uses advanced security features such as NGFW, ZTNA, SWG, CASB and MDR to protect against threats. It helps to reduce attack surfaces and improve overall cybersecurity.

Enhanced Flexibility

Unlike traditional networking boxes that stitch together hardware elements and connectivity in a Do-It-Yourself model, business-driven SD-WANs deliver all-in-one capabilities on a single platform. They centrally manage and provide visibility into security, routing, WAN optimization, segmentation and application performance to eliminate deployment risk, complexity and costs.

An sd-wan architecture is agnostic to switching protocols, allowing it to assign a path to data based on the application’s importance and any relevant failover parameters. It eliminates the need to forward traffic through a data center and allows for secure local internet breakout of cloud applications. It improves data transfer speeds, which are crucial for user productivity.

With quick, adaptable, and secure SD-WAN solutions, Fortinet aids businesses in securing their networks. They can create identity-driven policies that adhere to business goals, delivering optimal traffic steering. Typically, this is done by analyzing traffic flows and correlating the results with network circuit information to make intelligent decisions about route traffic across the WAN. It is a significant improvement over legacy WAN technology that only utilizes router tables to route packets. These centralized lookups take time to process, slowing down data transmission.

In addition, a traditional WAN setup may not be secure if employees access the WAN via public networks such as Wi-Fi at coffee shops and hotels, which could expose sensitive information to hackers. An SD-WAN offers encryption, ensuring that the only people who can see your data are those you intend to.

Enhanced Performance

With SD-WAN, enterprises can improve application performance and resiliency and deliver a high-quality user experience. SD-WAN steers traffic securely and intelligently over the WAN and directly to trusted SaaS and IaaS providers, reducing network

complexity and costs. It is achieved by combining multiple data services in an orchestrated manner based on business intent. It also eliminates the need for traditional security appliances, minimizing capital and operational costs.

An important feature of an SD-WAN solution is that it provides a virtual overlay that is independent of the underlying data service (e.g., MPLS, xDSL, cable, 4G/LTE) and that is policy-driven. It ensures that all traffic is prioritized based on business intent. In addition, an ideal SD-WAN architecture can provide real-time line monitoring, including latency and packet loss statistics, and provide configurable policies that specify the desired characteristics of applications.

Lastly, an SD-WAN can be deployed in days rather than the months often needed for new MPLS circuits or re-provisioning existing ones. It can also be delivered on less expensive Internet circuits, offering significantly faster provisioning times and better performance. It enables companies to avoid upfront investments in networking equipment and IT infrastructure. It can reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) by a significant margin. It is even more important in a world where most corporate data lives in the cloud.

Enhanced Management

The SD-WAN architecture can reduce operational costs by enabling businesses to use lower-cost Internet bandwidth instead of MPLS. It can lower equipment and service contracts and opex by eliminating the need for costly capacity upgrades.

In addition, the architecture can also improve application performance and elasticity by replacing MPLS access with direct Internet access to branches. It allows cloud and SaaS traffic to exit the branch office locally, which prevents backhaul and performance problems caused by data transmission across the WAN. However, this requires advanced security at the branch office to ensure users remain safe from cyber-attacks from untrusted websites and applications.

An NGFW (next-generation firewall) and CASB (cloud access security broker) are essential technologies to protect the network. An SD-WAN solution should also offer a single management platform that combines all functions in a simple, easy-to-use interface that provides complete visibility in real-time. It should include network usage metrics, routing based on application policies and zero-touch provisioning.

In addition to delivering enhanced performance and security, the SD-WAN architecture can eliminate delays associated with deploying new locations. While MPLS circuits can take up to 90 days to deploy, Internet circuits used by an SD-WAN are often available in a matter of days or even sooner with 4G/LTE. It can dramatically reduce the time it takes to set up a new site, improving employee productivity and business agility.

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Sangita Kumari
Sangita Kumari
A law student at Vinoba Bhave University.

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