4 Common Use Cases for SD-WAN

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Now that the technology has been with us for some time, interest in and adoption of software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN) is heating up. It’s a good time to look at what’s driving organizations to implement SD-WAN and what type of organizations the technology is best suited for.  

Profiling SD-WAN candidates

In terms of whether SD-WAN candidates fit a certain profile, Michael Lawson, General Manager for SD-WAN Solution Architecture for CenturyLink, doesn’t think so.

“SD-WAN spans customers sizes, industries, and verticals. We’re seeing traction across verticals,” he said. SD-WAN is well-suited to companies that are interested in acquiring, analyzing, and acting on data to improve business outcomes – which, again, is nearly all companies.

“It’s not a question of whether customers are leveraging that model, it’s the speed or pace at which they’re doing it,” he said.

Common SD-WAN drivers

While virtually any sort of company is a candidate for SD-WAN, Lawson said the most common use cases fall into four categories.

• Geographic expansion. When a company is adding to its existing footprint, such as retail or branch locations. Mergers and acquisitions also fit this category. In that case, the acquiring company can retain the existing services employed at the various sites of the acquired company, but use the SD-WAN as an overlay to bring them under the same corporate umbrella and apply uniform policies, security, and the like. (That’s one benefit that CenturyLink customer Koch Trucking found from its SD-WAN service, as this case study)

• Optimize existing WAN capacity. SD-WAN lets companies use a dual-connectivity strategy that spans public and private network services. IT can use public services to offload some traffic from the private network, thus reserving the private network for applications that need its performance characteristics.

• Add resiliency to the WAN. SD-WAN enables a hybrid network environment encompassing multiple network connections to the same site in an active/active configuration. Traffic can be balanced among the services under normal circumstances, but should one connection go down, traffic can fail over to the alternative service (or services).

• Cloud migration. SD-WAN is a good fit for what Lawson calls the “cloudification” of the enterprise, with companies moving various applications to the cloud. With support for application-based routing, SD-WAN allows each app to use the most appropriate wide-area service depending on its requirements.

With so many drivers, it’s little wonder that interest in SD-WAN is strong. “In network circles, there may be no hotter topic right now than [SD-WAN],” Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research, recently wrote in Network World. “SD-WAN is definitely moving out of the early-adopter phase and into mainstream adoption.”

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