In this first article in our “Networking for Nerds” blog series, we’ll be discussing the benefits of a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) that also leverages direct and secure access to multicloud to improve application performance, scalability, security and reliability.
A SD-WAN is a specific application of software-defined networking (SDN) technology applied to WAN connections. SD-WANs are used to connect enterprise networks – including branch offices and data centers – over large geographic distances.
A typical WAN might be used, for example, to connect branch offices to a central corporate network or to connect data centers separated by distance. In the past, these WAN connections often used technology that required special proprietary hardware. The SD-WAN movement seeks to move more of the network control into the cloud, using a more programmable software approach.
Unlike traditional WANs, SD-WAN delivers increased network agility and cost reduction. Since SD-WAN has its roots in SDN, the underlying principle of both is to abstract the network hardware and transport characteristics from the applications that use the underlying network interfaces.
SD-WAN business drivers
Enterprise customers are demanding more flexible, open, and cloud-based WAN technologies, rather than installing proprietary or specialized WAN technology that often involves expensive, fixed circuits or proprietary hardware.
SD-WAN has the advantage of removing potentially expensive routing hardware by provisioning connectivity and services via the cloud. Emerging SD-WAN technology can also be more flexible. For example, because SD-WAN connectivity can be controlled through cloud-based software, a customer might be able to scale up or “burst” connectivity during times of peak demand.
The main goal of SD-WAN technology for many customers is to deliver a business-class, secure, simple, cloud-enabled WAN connection, with as much open and software-based technology as possible. We expect these trends to accelerate over the next few years. What started as a solution for branch-office and data-center WAN connectivity that required less proprietary equipment appears to be expanding into a wide range of SD-WAN offerings and technologies, including those for virtual private networks (VPNs), security, WAN optimization, Network-as-a-Service, and application policy and delivery control.
The importance of security in SD-WAN
Aside from the array of SD-WAN benefits, the primary advantage of an SD-WAN architecture is security. Today’s companies prefer network architectures that integrate security, policy and orchestration, and SD-WAN covers those bases by unifying secure interconnectivity. In the SD-WAN architecture, a company benefits from end-to-end encryption across the entire network, including the internet. All devices and endpoints are completely authenticated, thanks to a scalable key exchange functionality and software-defined security. All communication between the main office and branch offices is secure, as is communication to and from the cloud.
The advantages of SD-WAN solutions
As we previously stated, SD-WAN solutions provide the software abstraction to create a network overlay and decouple network software services from the underlying hardware. Customers can leverage SD-WAN solutions in the following ways:
- Simplifying Branch Networks
SD-WAN allows you to provision branch offices faster with automated zero-touch deployment, simplified configuration, orchestration and ongoing monitoring with centralized troubleshooting tools. Your company can simplify branch infrastructure with the ability to insert network services on the branch edge, in the cloud, or in regional and enterprise data centers.
- Optimizing Application Performance
SD-WAN provides consolidated monitoring and visibility across multiple WAN links and service providers. This allows the optimization of application performance over hybrid or internet links with direct, secure access to enterprise and cloud applications.
- Delivering Branch Agility
Today, SD-WAN APIs enable integration into various management and reporting systems deployed by enterprises. This allows multiple links, devices and services to coexist and interoperate with incumbent solutions and make branch interconnectivity more agile.
- Reducing Costs
By delivering hybrid WAN with ease and enabling branch offices with ordinary broadband connections as an enterprise-grade WAN, you can reduce hardware delivery costs by choosing from deployment options such as virtual machine on a commercial-off-the-shelf ( device and virtual machine on an existing x86-based router.
Equinix Performance Hub and Citrix NetScaler
Equinix and Citrix have partnered to solve the ultimate connectivity challenge and improve performance and maximize application reliability for all business branches and remote locations at the edge.
Powered by the Equinix Performance Hub with the Equinix Cloud Exchange and Citrix NetScaler SD-WAN, enterprises can now obtain an integrated network solution that is easy to manage, scalable and reliable. It creates connections directly from branch offices to Equinix locations around the world. These connections consist of secure tunnels built over multiple aggregated network links, including public internet, MPLS and wireless connections.
The solution selects the best path for each application to ensure high application quality, and it instantly fails over if a network connection is lost or becomes degraded. With these advance capabilities, a branch office can securely and reliably connect to the Cloud Exchange, which provides low-latency and cost-efficient, virtualized connections to multiple cloud providers such as AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure, as well as optimized connections to SaaS applications such as Microsoft Office 365. Multicloud interconnectivity allows enterprises to quickly and seamlessly enable cloud failover and business continuity solutions and quickly spin up additional cloud compute and data analytics resources during workload spikes.
Read more about the Equinix and Citrix SD-WAN solution and how it can bring greater performance and reliability to your WAN infrastructure.