Your Authoritative Guide to SD-WAN

SD-WAN is the biggest innovation in networking these days. So big that Gartner predicts the SD-WAN market to reach $1.24 billion by 2020, while IDC estimates it to reach a whopping $8 billion by 2021. While the basic concept of SD-WAN is understood, many of the nuances and benefits of the application are confused. To help you with your research, we’ve created this Authoritative Guide to SD-WAN. In the sections below, you’ll find the answers to many common SD-WAN questions we are asked by our clients.

Let’s get started.

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN is a new form of networking that connects a business’ locations across significant geographical distances. While traditional WAN connections rely on expensive hardware, SD-WAN utilizes the internet or private cloud networks to form its connections.


How is SD-WAN Technology different than SDN?

SD-WAN is an application of the well-known software-defined networking (SDN) technology. While they’re similar in that both are software-defined, they also have some important differences. The primary difference being that SDN is used internally for location-specific networking over the LAN (such as an office headquarters). SD-WAN, configuration on the other hand, focuses on establishing geographically dispersed WAN connections such as broadband internet, LTE, 4G, and MPLS.

How does SD-WAN work?

SD-WAN intelligently guides network traffic over the WAN based on priority and security needs.


6 Key Benefits of SD-WAN Solutions

1. Cost Savings

Maintaining a healthy bottom-line is essential to any business and SD-WAN will help keep it that way. Here are a few reasons SD-WAN solutions can save you money:
  • Run on the public internet, SD-WAN solutions don’t require expensive hardware like that needed for MPLS networking. This is a big advantage SD-WAN has over MPLS
  • Centralized management is a big feature of SD-WAN and gives your team the power to control your network from anywhere. As an added bonus, centralized management means you get real-time analytics that enables you to quickly optimize your network as needed (read: so long wasted resources).

2. Increased Agility

An internet-based software solution, an SD-WAN network makes it possible for your team to deploy, manage, and alter your network across large distances from one centralized location. With SD-WAN’s centralized control your team can:
  • Monitor networking usage and activity across the entire SD-WAN network
  • Deploy changes across the entire SD-WAN network from a central location
  • Provide networking support to remote employees and offices

3. Global Bandwidth

SD-WAN is a provider-agnostic networking solution that operates on the public internet. Unlike MPLS networking, SD-WAN isn’t dependent on a single provider to guarantee its functionality and as a result will give you consistent network performance, regardless of where you’re using it.

4. Scalability

Need to scale up or down your bandwidth? SD-WAN can do that. A key benefit of SD-WAN is its ability to control bandwidth on the fly. For businesses, this means critical applications will always receive the appropriate bandwidth as they require it.

5. Security

No need to worry about SD-WAN security. SD-WAN’s encrypted network ensures data is protected across any connection.

6. Flexibility

SD-WAN just makes life simple. Any network change you need can be done in minutes — compared to the days or weeks required with MPLS.

Types of SD-WAN Vendors


SD-WAN vendors of all shapes are now jumping into the game — from growing start-ups and established carriers to edge providers. Each vendor offers a different approach to SD-WAN. Choosing the right vendor will require some homework on your part to determine which provider and type of SD-WAN service are best suited for you.

What to Look for in SD-Wan Providers

 Types of SD-WAN Services 

There are three types of SD-WAN services available today: SD-WAN via Internet, SD-WAN-as-a-Service, and Managed Service SD-WAN. Determining which type is best for you will depend on your performance needs, budget, and the capacity of your in-house IT team.

1. SD-WAN via Internet:


SD-WAN run on the Internet is the most manual intensive type of SD-WAN service for a business as it requires a business to completely build and manage their infrastructure. Many companies choose to combine their Internet connections with their existing MPLS connections to gain the cost perks of the Internet and performance reliability of MPLS.


  • Quick deployment
  • Significant cost savings over MPLS
  • Consistent performance within a single region


  • Run over the public internet which may result in performance inconsistencies with real-time applications over distances

2. SD-WAN-as-a-Service:


Companies purchase SD-WAN-as-a-Service on a subscription basis similar to other Cloud SaaS offerings. Unlike Internet-based SD-WAN that requires your manual work, a provider does the heavy lifting here. This type of SD-WAN is offered by a provider on a pre-constructed private network infrastructure that makes deployment fast and budget friendly.


  • Fast deployment
  • Connected over a private network
  • Integrates with Cloud, SaaS, and on-premises applications
  • Reliable connectivity


  • Limited number of providers offering this type of service

3. Managed Service SD-WAN


Lastly, a managed service SD-WAN is where a business hires a provider to build and manage their SD-WAN service. As we mentioned earlier, picking your provider will require some research on your part. However, when you do find the right one, it can significantly reduce the burden of managing your SD-WAN network alone. Keep in mind that most managed SD-WANs are run over the public internet.


  • Managed service that oversees infrastructure and operations
  • Reliable support
  • Consistent performance within a single region


  • Run over the public internet which may result in performance inconsistencies with real-time applications over distances
  • Additional costs may be required to gain full functionality

SD-WAN and Centralized Control

One of the primary benefits of SD-WAN is the centralized control and visibility it gives you over your entire network. From a single portal, SD-WAN can help your team gain:

  • Real-time usage data and analytics about your entire network as well as your sites and users
  • Continuous monitoring for network events
  • Live security information including network threats or breaches

Migrating to SD-WAN: Considerations when picking your SD-WAN type

Making the move to SD-WAN networking isn’t a decision to be made lightly. A move of this magnitude will have a significant impact on your business and should be fully researched before making the leap. While doing your homework, take into consideration the following:

IT Capacity & Skill:

Does your IT team have the availability and expertise to build and manage your SD-WAN architecture? If yes, an internet-based SD-WAN type could work for you. If not, you may want to consider going with either a Managed Service or SD-WAN-as-a-Service type.

Performance Needs:

If you run a significant amount of real-time applications across large distances, using only an internet-based SD-WAN (remember most Managed Service providers run on the internet) may not be your best option. Instead, consider taking a hybrid approach by maintaining your MPLS connections to help optimize your real-time application performance.

Urgency of Deployment:

How quickly does your team need to deploy your network on SD-WAN? If the answer is quickly, either an internet-based or SD-WAN-as-a-Service type are your best bets. If you have more breathing room, and also desire hands-on-service, a Managed Service deployment could be your better option.

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