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An Overview of the New WAN Architecture Model—SD-WAN

April 30, 2020


The way wide area networks (WANs) work is changing. A new type of architecture—SD-WAN—promises to streamline and simplify WAN management. 

In 2019, the SD-WAN market has grown by 70%, exceeding experts’ expectations and predictions. And it will continue to expand at a CAGR of 45.5% from 2020-2025 from a market size of $2.32 billion in 2019 to over $22.01 billion by 2024.

What Is SD-WAN?

In short, the software-defined wide area network, or SD-WAN, was created to simplify the delivery of WAN services between data centers and branch offices. 

Cloud adoptions, together with the increased popularity of smart internet of things (IoT) devices in the enterprise networks and software as a service (SaaS) technology, have revolutionized the way distributed organizations are functioning. This made routing through multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) become counterproductive and inefficient, as it can’t provide the high performance and low latency necessary for meeting today’s WAN connection requirements. In this case, MPLS needs to be replaced by cheaper broadband internet connectivity.

VMware predicts that by 2021, 50% of all applications will be moved to the cloud.

So, SD-WAN was developed as a response to the incapacity of traditional WAN connections, such as MPLS, to keep up with emerging technologies. It offers a more reliable and faster alternative for accessing cloud-based enterprise apps and aims at transforming your network, by making it more responsive, providing greater bandwidth and being more cost-effective.

This architectural arrangement enables administrators to break free from being solely dependent on traditional MPLS connections, thus providing relief on the traffic load in any specified path and creating better bandwidth economics for per-bit-transferred.

How SD-WAN Can Help Your Business?

Right off the bat, the benefits of implementing SD-WAN refer to improving the performance of apps. But this is not all it does. By adopting this new technology, you can also reduce the number of customer-premises equipments (CPEs) and other network hardware devices necessary for optimal WAN functionality. Replacing physical appliances with virtual counterparts, also known as network function virtualization (NFV), makes your network easier to manage. SD-WAN will help you increase branch agility while also minimizing your operational expenses.

Although it promises to do a lot for organizations having their subsidiaries scattered across the globe, this new network opportunity doesn’t come risk-free. 

What Are Some of SD-WAN’s Shortcomings?

As SD-WAN uses the bandwidth of relatively unsecured internet connections, exposure to breaches and cyber-attacks become the main customer concerns. For instance, Cisco flagged a security-related issue that their SD-WAN offerings come with.

A vulnerability in the CLI of Cisco SD-WAN Solution software could allow an authenticated, local attacker to inject arbitrary commands that are executed with root privileges.

To solve this problem, the company offered free security software upgrades to their customers. This is only one example of SD-WAN security flaws. Others refer to insider threats, spillover from malware, the absence of segmentation, and reduced visibility into the network.

However, top-performing solutions mitigate these concerns.

Who Leads the SD-WAN Global Market in 2020?

In this landscape, the competition is fierce. Vendors race to position themselves at the top, and until now, VMware, Cisco, and Silver Peak earned their best performer titles. Aside from the top three technology leaders, Versa Networks, Aryaka, and Cradlepoint are also positioned in the leader section owning to their comprehensive SD-WAN solution.

However, the providers activating in this dynamic, complex market might not be relevant in the long run. According to Doyle Research, smaller vendors could either be acquired or exit the market altogether by the end of 2020. So, when choosing a solution, you need to keep this in mind and have a look at the top-of-the-line first.

Bottom Line

Although this next-generation WAN technology promises to improve the connection between far-flung offices and data centers, it can also put your business at risk. When looking for the right offer, paying extra attention to security features should be your top priority. Vendor viability is another issue that needs to be kept in mind, as the SD-WAN setting is changing rapidly and small providers are threatened by larger ones. Depending on your choice, deploying SD-WAN could be an opportunity for your business to achieve greater performance, better agility, and lower operational costs or it could create vulnerabilities inside your network, leaving you exposed to attacks and breaches.