What is SDN? How does it compare?

You’ve probably heard the buzz around software-defined networking, or SDN — it’s a powerful way to enable optimization and create efficiencies in your WAN, including centralized management and improved network scalability, thanks to data controls and optimized cloud architectures. It all adds up to a more agile experience for internal WAN managers and the clients they serve — and it can lower an organization’s costs in both hard and soft dollars.

But there’s still a lot of confusion around SDN options for managing wide area networks, and how those options compare to the technology your company might be using today.

In this three-part series, we’ll help you get to know SD-WAN, illustrate the pros and cons and show how companies are selecting and deploying this technology, so you can make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you.

What is SD-WAN?

Simply put, SD-WAN is technology that allows companies to control their WAN connections with software — instead of maintaining the traditional network featuring private lines and set bandwidths, both of which can be limiting factors. The three “flavors” (cloud-based, hardware-based and a hybrid of the two) offer various advantages depending on the company and its needs.

Cloud-based: Many organizations, typically large enterprises, use this option as a way to outsource infrastructure management — the tools for WAN control are supplied through the cloud service provider of their choice.

  • Pros: Can improve network optimization significantly; hardware and administration costs often are reduced; increased flexibility and scalability.
  • Cons: Requires expertise and an existing virtual network (or the creation of one); lacks customized hardware controls.

Hardware (premise)-based: This allows companies to realize the benefits of SD-WAN, while maintaining control over network hardware and data.

  • Pros: Local hardware management and network traffic control for administrators; countless customization and configuration options; enhanced performance can meet needs for both small and large offices.
  • Cons: Costs can be higher than other options; not integrated with cloud providers.

Hybrid: Combining options offers companies premise- and cloud-based gateways to realize SD-WAN benefits; these often are fully managed by the service provider, but offer control over network hardware where you want it.

  • Pros: Previous investments in hardware aren’t wasted; simple deployment.
  • Cons: Limited control over traffic; uptime is dependent on cloud gateway.

How does it all compare to what you’re using now?

The major benefit of SDN versus other technologies is the ability to get IP-based network connectivity anywhere, from anyone, in any medium — including 4G, DSL, DS1, EoC, EoF and 1-10Gb. This reduces reliance on private MPLS NNIs that are not ubiquitous with providers near your branches and buildings. SDN doesn’t require complex network interfaces between carriers, and offers a wide variety of connectivity options.

Despite all the benefits, however, SDN is not right for everyone. The next post in our series will look at how various companies are using this technology, with real-world examples that can provide insight into your own situation. And in our final post, we’ll look at the questions your IT teams should ask to determine what’s best for your organization both strategically and tactically.

Learn more at our SD-WAN event April 27, 2017

We’ll take your SD-WAN education to the next level at Hyde Group’s SD-WAN event, which is set for April 27 in Seattle. Click here for more details!

Ready to talk today? Give us a call at (206) 999-4247 or email to talk about how SD-WAN and other solutions can help your business improve network agility, reduce redundancy and meet company goals.

Connect with Your IT Transformation Experts Today!