What is SD-WAN and how does the architecture work?

Customize your connection types for optimized application performance

by The AT&T Business Editorial Team

What’s Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN), and why might your business benefit from it? Before we answer that question, let’s tackle a related topic: Wide Area Networks (WANs). If your business operates multiple office or retail locations, you probably use a WAN to supply those sites with highly reliable voice and data network connectivity so they can stay up and running. A WAN connects multiple Local Area Networks (LANs) via routers, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) connections to form your business’s consolidated network. WANs typically do a good job of providing network service, but they can present challenges to businesses seeking more control over factors such as application performance, flexibility, and scalability.

Support applications with an intelligent, dynamic network architecture

As more business applications and tools move into the cloud, they place greater stress on networks. Not every business site has the same connectivity requirements due to the demands of particular applications. That’s where SD-WAN can help by providing highly secure, dynamic, application-aware network traffic management.

SD-WAN moves network traffic management away from hardware and on-site premises to next generation software in the cloud for enhanced agility, control, and visibility. By allowing businesses to customize their connectivity for specific applications and sites, SD-WAN offers more versatility than conventional WAN architectures. Combining broadband and 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) connections with MPLS, SD-WAN responds dynamically to each site’s network requirements to adjust performance profiles as needed. If a site requires the highly secure and high speed performance of MPLS, SD-WAN allocates the necessary bandwidth. In other cases, SD-WAN will select broadband or LTE as alternatives.

SD-WAN’s ability to intelligently monitor your network and respond dynamically to changing traffic patterns can make the best use of your available connection types. It prioritizes demanding needs, such as heavy data traffic, by allocating your highest performing network connections.

High Security and scalability: SD-WAN puts you in control

SD-WAN offers more than better network customization—it comes with high security and scalability perks, too. Conventional MPLS connections already provide abundant security features, including private packet transmission for highly secure site-to-site communication. SD-WAN adds to the security arsenal by enabling end-to-end encryption. It also allows businesses to install firewalls for unified threat management.

SD-WAN offers:

  • Agility and flexibility
  • Improved application performance
  • Faster time-to-market visibility and control

If your business supports multiple sites with different connectivity requirements, you might benefit from an SD-WAN architecture. 

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