Are all SD-WAN solutions created equal?

Posted by Sean Lane on Sep 7, 2017
Sean Lane
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Ask a Pro: Difference between SD-WAN solutions 

Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) has been a very hot and yet very complicated topic lately. More and more businesses are realizing the great benefits of SD-WAN, and we also advocate for it. To clarify what real SD-WAN is, we asked our Lead Sales Engineer, Sean Lane, for more details. 

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Editor: Hi, Sean. Is that true that the entire SD-WAN market sells the same solution?

Sean Lane: No, it's not. And because of that, I wasn’t sold on the SD-WAN solution right off the bat. My thought was, ‘how does software beat out an MPLS running at a lower level on the OSI model?’ I personally believe SD-WAN is still in its early phases and some companies are slapping labels on different network management and optimization solutions but calling them SD-WAN.

Read Case Study: SD-WAN For 19 Connected Locations

Editor: So, what's the difference between those solutions and how can you identify real SD-WAN? 

Sean Lane: I spent some time researching and wrapping my head around the solution. I break it down into three categories: Managed Firewalls and Routers, VPN, and Cloud/Internet Optimizations.

The first one is easy; it's a single web based interface for management of all your devices. No true SD-WAN here, in my opinion, just a fancy single pane of management.

The second one that I labeled as "VPN" actually includes the majority of the existing "SD-WAN" solutions. They are fancy little boxes that replace the current firewall or MPLS router that you put behind or in front and connect to the company’s data center where they dump traffic out to the internet. This is supposed to be a great feature but it is data center-dependent and there is no true cloud handoff. You are just going off their data center’s internet.

The third is what I label as "Cloud / Internet Optimizations". These are the true SD-WAN players. The guys who use what I call a hybrid model. The reason I call these guys a hybrid model is that their equipment is being adapted into the actual ISP backbone as well as their own data centers, and also at the big SaaS players’ data centers (e.g. Salesforce and Amazon). This allows adaptability at a carrier level to adjust routes based on congestion. This category can actually do distributed routing in the cloud and drop your traffic off at your SaaS, UCaaS or CCaaS.

Editor: What would you recommend to the people who want to learn more about the true SD-WAN?

Sean Lane: We posted a couple of articles on our blog with some use case examples. They can give you a better perspective of how Software Defined WAN works. We are planning on posting more of these materials in the future.

There's also an e-book, "SD-WAN for Dummies" by VeloCloud, that I would recommend for a deeper technical dive. And there is always the option to send our team a short note or give us a call and request a live demo.

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Tags: SD-WAN