SD-WAN optimises data traffic with your branches and sites
24 November 2020
Does your organisation have multiple branches or sites? In that case, a secure, assured and cost-efficient cloud connection to your business environment and software is an absolute must. SD-WAN offers you that. But what is SD-WAN exactly, and what advantages does it offer over MPLS?
Networking with your branch offices
Today, companies often use an MPLS network to connect their branch offices with their business environment. In contrast to an ordinary internet connection, MPLS ensures that your data traffic is closed off from normal internet traffic and other clients on the data server, and is only visible to your provider.
What does an MPLS network have to offer?
MPLS is often used synonymously with IP VPN (a technology which makes it possible to create private networks between an organisation’s various sites). MPLS is a routing protocol that is used to set up an IP VPN, but it also has other applications, and it’s highly probably that even your internet traffic passes through an MPLS infrastructure at some point. In this blog, we will use the term “MPLS” as synonymous with IP VPN.
An MPLS network has major advantages. It offers you a reliable and encrypted network with a guaranteed service level (which means that the bandwidth and availability are guaranteed. Data is streamed between locations via a private network within your provider’s infrastructure, making use of pre-determined routes. This stream is isolated from all other streams carried by the provider. In short, an MPLS architecture guarantees the privacy of your business data.
Connecting with cloud software
Getting direct access to your corporate data centre on your (shared) server in the cloud is one thing. But what with all the cloud applications that your organisation uses: at the moment, communicating with public apps or sharepoint and collaboration hubs accounts for almost 60% of the bandwidth you consume. The apps or software aren't hosted by your server provider, you take them from all over the place - directly via the internet. That being so, a classic MPLS network doesn't add much value. What’s more: the more cloud software or apps you use, the more bandwidth you need. In other words: the more your MPLS connection will cost you. Use a traditional internet connection, in that case? That would indeed be cheaper, but you’re asking for security problems doing that.
SD-WAN: the best of both worlds
So is there no safe and cost-efficient way to enable communication between your branches and your business environment and cloud apps? Of course there is. SD-WAN combines the advantages of an internet and an MPLS connection. A Software Defined Wide Area Network, SD-WAN for short, is a ‘network level’ above the MPLS and internet connections. It is supplementary to MPLS, and you can not only use an encrypted connection with your network or cloud apps, but an open one as well. With no need for extra hardware.
With SD-WAN, you can combine any WAN technology (fibre optic/VDSL-coax, 4G, WIMAX) with any type of WAN link (internet, IP, VPN). So you are free to choose the providers that offer you the most cost-efficient and highest-performing internet connections, depending on the region where your company and your branch offices are located. You only need one player that will pull all these connections in your SD-WAN network together, and a smart SD-WAN appliance at every physical location.
SD-WAN: priority connection
With your network connected and your software installed, SD-WAN selects the most efficient path (based on realtime quality metrics) to reach business applications, cloud applications and websites. Think of it as a priority connection: the smart SD-WAN device always looks within its network for the fastest, most direct, reliable and (cost-)efficient route for the type of connection you want.
Advantages of SD- WAN
Via SD-WAN, the data traffic running from and to your data server or software is always secure, optimised and high-performing. The advantages of SD-WAN are legion.
Efficient and high-performing: Via one single smart router and one physical cable, SD-WAN conducts your data traffic to your data server, cloud applications or websites. To achieve this, you use any combination of internet or MPLS links, and however many you want. Some companies have lines open to five different internet providers, for example. In every session, SD-WAN will select the best path in real time. It also considers how much bandwidth you need. To do that, it tests the available network connections every 15 seconds. For example, are you looking to make a phone call or video call via VoIP? In that case, you’ll need a connection with minimum lag. SD-WAN knows the most suitable link and route, and will send your communication along that path.
Secure: encrypted and checked: The SD-WAN architecture offers inherent security for your head office and branches, which your IT team will manage and control easily and visually. SD-WAN ensures that all data traffic is automatically fully encrypted from the moment it enters your company or branch - even if the connection goes via the internet. SD-WAN also has built-in firewall features: when the route is selected, SD-WAN checks whether the source of the data it downloads is trustworthy, and filters out insecure web sources.
High-performing: Because SD-WAN always selects the optimum route, you use the entire bandwidth available to your internet connection and MPLS structure - including that of your back-up MPLS. That way, you always benefit from the best performance, irrespective of the bandwidth you use or the data you want to access. And that is of particular interest if you are working with public cloud software, such as Microsoft 365, for example.
Flexible and scalable: SD-WAN will be your choice if flexibility is a requirement. SD-WAN solutions are based on ‘standard’ internet subscriptions, which are normally available easily and quickly and can be cancelled on an annual basis. Different connections (ADSL, fibre, 4G) can be used interchangeably, and you can scale up or scale down the bandwidth easily as and when required.
SD-WAN: cost-efficient optimisation
Compared to MPLS, SD-WAN is - overall - more cost-efficient. And this has to do with the freedom of choice which SD-WAN offers you. You're no longer dependent on your provider, but use its network infrastructure purely as a transport channel. This means you can drive down the cost of bandwidth: after all, bandwidth tariffs vary by provider and location. You can mix and match providers’ offerings per branch and for the company as a whole to get the best possible performance and price for your data traffic and required bandwidth. Moreover, the smart SD-WAN router ensures optimum use of the bandwidth available to you according to the type of connection you are setting up.
At Dstny, we are currently developing a deal for branch offices which will give companies the performance, security and reliability of an MPLS network - at internet prices. Companies and their branches will then benefit not only from the security we build into our zero-trust architecture, but also from ease of management: Dstny co-manages and maintains the devices, so that your team has its hands free for core tasks. And our 24/7 helpdesk gives you the guarantee of support when you need it.