Software-defined Wide Area Networking or SD-WAN is a WAN setup that is configured and managed programmatically allowing it to adapt faster and more efficiently to meet any changing requirements. SD-WAN technology has changed the way in which large organizations approach their networking requirements and overcome budgetary constraints.

Characteristics of SD-WAN

SD-WAN is typically defined by the following 5 characteristics and understanding these can help users comprehend its capabilities to solve network security and network traffic congestion-related problems.

Multiple Connection and Transport

Unlike the traditional network setups, SD-WAN is capable of chaining itself together with other networks. This is one of the first steps toward achieving WAN optimization. Each SD-WAN gateway can connect to multiple connections that use different transport (broadband, MPLS, LTE, etc.) A VPN can be set up across each such WAN connection for enhanced security making SD-WAN an overlay across a diverse network communication infrastructure.

Centralized Control

Control in an SD-WAN setup can be managed from a single location. Irrespective of where the branch offices are physically located, the network connecting them can be controlled from a centralized location. This is typically a SaaS (Software as a Service) application that runs on a cloud environment. Further, control of the application is entirely decoupled from any hardware infrastructure.

Dynamic Path Selection

SD-WAN setup can route traffic onto a particular WAN link in an automated and selective manner. For instance, if one link is down or not available, then packets can be steered onto another.

Policy-based traffic management

Pre-defined policies with pre-configured priority levels route traffic through the network. The central management console allows for policies to be defined and modified at a central location and implemented throughout the network.

4 ways SD-WAN Enhances Network Security

Network segmentation

Network segmentation is an architectural approach that divides a network into multiple segments or subnets, each acting as its own small network. Segmentation allows network administrators to:

4 ways SD-WAN Enhances Network Security

  • Segregate traffic from different applications or groups of applications
  • Apply security policy and quality of service more granularly. Different policies can be applied to individual segments.
  • Create Micro segmentation by keeping very specific types of traffic separate from each other.
  • Prevent traffic from insecure locations from interacting with sensitive information.
  • Limit attack vectors to a single segmentation.

VPN and IPSec Protocols

IPsec-based VPNs are nearly universal to all SD-WANs. Since an SD-WAN uses the public internet in addition to MPLS connections, a VPN or IPsec tunnel is required to prevent traffic interference or interception.

This is done by:

  • Authenticating the sender, receiver, and packets being sent
  • Using encryption keys already shared by the hosts sending and receiving the data, or using public and private key encryption
  • Ensuring packets have not been tampered with by using the Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) protocol
  • Confirming that the origin of packets is trusted through an Authentication Header (AH) that looks at the IP header

High level of visibility

Security features in an SD-WAN are reliant on the amount of network visibility because the software can only interact with the traffic it can detect. While SD-WAN solutions defer, most offer two levels of network visibility:

Application level visibility

  • Administrators can view details on application bandwidth usage, resource usage, and overall performance.
  • Administrators can granularly establish security policies and user access control for both applications and IP addresses.

 Device-level visibility

  • Administrators can analyze traffic usage by device and individuals.
  • Administrators can group users and determine their level of network access based on their usage history.

Next-Generation Firewall

A next-generation firewall (NGFW) is an important aspect of SD-WAN security. An NGFW is a virtualized and improved version of traditional hardware-based firewalls. An NGFW can run multiple virtual network functions like:

  • Application awareness
  • Intrusion detection and Prevention
  • URL and web content filtering
  • Malware detection
  • Antivirus protection

3 ways SD-WAN Decreases Traffic Congestion

Effective load balancing

Effective load balancing

SD-WAN can equally distribute network load between latency-sensitive and regular applications. Some load balancing strategies include:

  • Flexible pathways depending on individual application requirements
  • Preventing congestion spots from being created by diverting traffic to alternate less-busy channels
  • Maintaining a reliable data flow by minimizing packet losses and drops
  • Stopping performance-intensive applications from congesting a network

Advanced Traffic Management

SD-WAN uses automation to optimize policies that govern performance. Advanced traffic management options include:

  • Policy based routing for the entire network.
  • Real-time tracking of network traffic for faster response time.
  • Ability to separate bottle-necks from the rest of the network and fix the issue
  • Better traffic control with automated traffic management

Optimization of SaaS and IaaS traffic

Some SD-WAN vendors can optimize the traffic of your Software-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-service applications. They do this by:

  • Deploying a licence within Cloud Infrastructure as if it was a piece of hardware on a site.
  • Cloud traffic moves faster at the other side of the connection (in the cloud)
  • Simultaneous use of multiple underlay transports for cloud traffic.
  • Maximise availability, throughput or efficiency, according to the requirements of the application.

SD-WAN for digital transformation

Traditional WAN functionality is confined to connecting users to applications that are hosted on servers located in the data centers. Unfortunately, this is no longer an effective way to manage the ever-increasing traffic especially with the wide-spread use of cloud infrastructure. Businesses cannot adopt advanced applications without upgrading network infrastructure. Software-defined WAN is the best solution to optimize network security and traffic congestion in a rapidly changing world.

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