SD-WAN is an acronym that stands for software-defined wide area network. This technology takes software-defined networking (SDN) one step further by applying it to wide area network (WAN) connections that are used to connect networks such as branch offices and data center in a single company over large geographic areas. SD-WAN automatically finds the most effective way to route computer traffic to these sites by using software that moves more of the traffic into the “cloud.”

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Easier and Less Expensive

Previously, such connections required propriety hardware from the company providing the network connections, which was often expensive. Depending on customer needs, software-defined wide area network may be used to replace more expensive technologies like a T-1 high transmission line or Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) that improve and secure Internet connectivity. Because this technology is cloud-based, it is more flexible and allows customization according to the customer’s wishes. One example of customizing network operations is to scale up connectivity during times of peak usage.


Most of the technology contained within software-defined wide area network is not new, but the way it is packaged is. It can provide considerable savings over traditional WAN architecture, making a company’s network as much as two and a half times less expensive. The biggest savings come through the use of commodity routers, although SD-WAN technology also results in a decrease in the cost of maintenance and support.

Other benefits include:

  • Greater agility and responsiveness to new information technology (IT) innovations
  • Support of multiple high-performance connections that remain secure
  • Permits load sharing across connections and regulates traffic flow resulting in improved performance
  • Supports changes to premium services such as firewalls, security, WAN optimization, VPNs and application delivery
  • Zero-touch provisioning (ZTP) support
  • Encrypts WAN traffic to improve network security while also creating segments to minimize damage if breaches occur

Relationship to Network Functions Virtualization

Another key reason why many companies have begun using a software-defined wide area network is its relationship to Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) technology. Through a software-defined wide area network, businesses can layer their network infrastructure services through cloud and virtualization technologies. A software-defined wide area network can run adjacent to or independently from virtual network functions that also include firewalls and Quality of Service (QoS) applications, among others.

Expect Continued Growth

SDX Central indicates that the market for software-defined wide will continue to grow. Most new entrants in the market will focus on strengthening Internet security or enter niche markets. A provider named Silverpeak is focusing on Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) offerings. Aryaka’s service allows businesses to use WAN as a Network-as-a-Service (NaaS). Branch-to-central-office connectivity is Velocloud’s specialty. Established providers like Riverbed and Cisco are focusing their efforts on cloud-based offerings.

Boosting productivity and performance are side benefits of switching business networks to SD-WAN technologies. By switching to a cloud-based technology such as a software-defined wide area network, companies will be better able to meet their IT needs, make their computing more secure and be better able to serve their customers.