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Are AI-powered networks already outperforming SD-WAN?

Opinion By Teridion
Jul 11, 20235 mins

When it first came out a few years ago, SD-WAN was a game-changer that offered IT teams flexible and cost-effective networking compared to legacy solutions like MPLS. How does it stack up today against the latest breed of AI-powered connectivity solutions?

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Credit: Teridion

SD-WANs (software-defined wide area networks) have been in wide-scale use for several years now, and their adoption has accelerated in recent years. According to a report by IDC, the worldwide SD-WAN infrastructure market reached $4.5 billion in 2020, representing a dramatic 45.5% increase from the previous year.

Today, SD-WAN is considered a mainstream technology, and companies like Microsoft, Vodafone, and Visa are using it to connect their branch offices, data centers, and cloud resources. As more organizations adopt cloud-based applications and services, the demand for SD-WAN is likely to continue to grow.

But within SD-WAN solutions there are critical limitations–particularly for organizations that operate globally since SD-WAN lacks a global backbone.

To optimize SD-WAN for business performance, organizations must have a clear understanding of their connectivity priorities, including security and data privacy needs, salient cloud applications, centralized configuration, and global traffic that must be supported over the long haul.


What is SD-WAN and for which use cases is it best suited?

SD-WAN is a technology that allows for the centralized management and control of a wide area network using software. When we say SD-WAN is for short haul connectivity, it means that it primarily connects locations that are relatively close to each other geographically, usually within the same city or region.

The reason SD-WAN is suitable for short haul connectivity is because it leverages the existing internet infrastructure to establish connections between locations. Instead of relying solely on expensive dedicated lines like traditional wide area networks (WANs), SD-WAN uses the internet as a transport medium. It can use multiple internet links, such as broadband or fiber optic connections, to create a virtual network between locations.

SD-WAN has become increasingly important in the networking industry for businesses of all sizes because it offers greater agility, flexibility, and security in adjusting networks to meet changing business needs.  

It also provides centralized management and visibility, allowing IT teams to manage the entire network from a single interface. With a traditional WAN, you’d need separate management for each branch location. 

And since traditional WANs do not have the app-aware routing capabilities of SD-WAN, they are more prone to low or inconsistent application performance. These are all significant hassles that negatively affect an organization’s performance and impede digital transformation.

One of the most popular use cases for SD-WAN is to connect branch offices to the corporate network, providing a secure and optimized connection for remote workers. SD-WAN helps manage traffic and prioritize critical applications so remote workers have a consistent and high-quality experience. It also helps manage traffic between different branch locations, making sure that applications receive the necessary bandwidth and that security policies are enforced.

Another common use case for SD-WAN is to manage multiple cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. With SD-WAN organizations can connect and manage traffic between these different cloud providers, as well as between the cloud and on-premise data centers.


When is SD-WAN not enoughor too much?

Generally speaking, organizations that operate globally, with branches in different geolocations, will need more robust WAN solutions or alternatives to SD-WAN.

Global network platforms such as Teridion provide powerful long-haul connectivity – the ability to maintain high-speed, reliable communication even over extended distances, because it works on the global internet backbone. This long-haul connectivity makes it easier than ever to solve the WAN needs of enterprises with branches and remote workers in different parts of the world. For such enterprises, the overhead required to securely manage SD-WAN, as well as vendor lock-in with average contracts of two years or more, are often too expensive and unnecessary.

Teridion uses AI-powered route detection to dynamically find the fastest and most stable routes while in transit to ensure reliable performance in any location and with any edge device. As an overlay network, Teridion has the agility to utilize the internet when it performs optimally, but once it detects that performance has dropped below the SLA threshold, it has full control to re-route traffic.

Comparatively, SD-WAN is able to detect that there is a connectivity issue, but can’t fix it. SD-WAN is dependent on the best efforts of the internet – and can only control the exit point from which the traffic will reach its destination, such as private lines, internet, or DIA.

Ultimately, much will depend on an organization’s specific needs. There are objective differences in quality and performance among WAN connectivity solutions. The level of vendor support, which may include customer service, technical support, and training, can differ significantly and should be a key selection factor. So, too, should the level of management and monitoring, as these will impact cost, ease of use, and maintenance in the long run.

The future of connectivity is evolving quickly  

As businesses increasingly rely on cloud services and distributed workforce models, the need for more flexible, secure, and cost-effective networking solutions grows with them. SD-WAN has provided many of these benefits, as well as the ability to prioritize and optimize traffic flows according to business policies and application requirements.

Yet WAN solutions are constantly evolving, with new features and capabilities added regularly. As the technology matures and becomes more standardized, we’re likely to see interoperability increase between different vendors’ solutions, making it easier for businesses to adopt and manage multi-vendor networks. Global enterprises can also expect agile and cost-effective SD-WAN alternatives that are specifically designed to optimize site-to-site or site-to-cloud traffic over the long-haul, while simplifying network configuration and management.

The future of connectivity is moving fast, and we can expect continued growth and innovation in this space just around the corner.

Learn more about powerful connectivity solutions for global teams.