SD-WAN uses application-aware routing protocols to improve application performance. Most SD-WAN solutions create virtualized overlays in the form of encrypted tunnels, and a centralized management function intelligently steers network traffic across the WAN, through these tunnels, in the most efficient way available. Traffic is prioritized by business case and policy, offering optimal quality of service (QoS).
Software-defined networking (SDN) technology is a critical element of SD-WAN, allowing for on-the-fly network management and configuration to suit the needs of moment-to-moment traffic or specific use cases, such as maintaining uptime for critical applications.
SD-WAN creates secure tunnels that enable users and entities to connect directly to software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) providers, which can lower costs for additional infrastructure, improve connectivity and user experience, and reduce the attack surface compared to a traditional or hybrid WAN.
Traditional WAN architectures fall short as organizations migrate more of their apps and data to the public cloud. Security is more important than ever, but backhauling traffic from remote users and branch offices over private networks—such as MPLS or VPN—to a centralized internet gateway and back again introduces latency and creates a poor user experience.
Hybrid WANs can see to some of these issues, and they’re still a compelling alternative to the expense and inflexibility of traditional WAN connections. However, they don’t necessarily use SDN technology—in which case they can’t dynamically route traffic to ensure the best path. This alone puts hybrid WAN at a distinct disadvantage compared to SD-WAN.
By taking advantage of software-defined policies to determine optimal paths, SD-WAN makes it easy to establish local internet breakouts, which bring cloud-based applications and other cloud services as close to users as possible. What’s more, combining SD-WAN with cloud-delivered security allows an organization to bring policy as close as possible. We’ll look at that in more detail shortly.
Here are some of the ways SD-WAN separates itself from traditional wide-area networking:
Legacy data center-centric approach
Lengthy deployment and configuration
Rigid, complex, cumbersome, and expensive
Difficult to integrate with SWG, firewalls, etc.
MPLS connections are private but not secure
Modern software-defined networking approach
Fast, simple deployment and configuration
Flexible, simple, easy to manage, and affordable
Easy to integrate with SWG, firewalls, etc.
Virtual tunnel overlays are encrypted end to end
SD-WAN creates the shortest bridge between two points, regardless of where those points are located. This makes it easy to see how SD-WAN offers a variety of benefits over traditional WAN:
Secure access service edge (SASE) is a network architecture framework that brings cloud native security technologies—SWG, CASB, ZTNA, and FWaaS in particular—together with WAN capabilities to securely connect users, systems, and endpoints to apps and services anywhere. To support agile operations, these technologies are cloud-delivered and can be managed centrally.
Zero trust, a core tenet of SASE, asserts that no user can be trusted by default. A SASE architecture enforces zero trust policies in the cloud to safeguard sensitive data and protect organizations from web-based threats.
So how does SD-WAN fit into all of this? As a central element of a SASE framework, it supports cloud-first strategies and secure digital transformation initiatives. Rather than being backhauled to your data center for security functions, end user device traffic is inspected at a nearby point of presence and sent to its destination from there. This means more efficient and secure access to apps and data, making it the far better option for protecting distributed workforces and data in the cloud.
SD-WAN optimization has much to offer today’s agile, distributed operations. Even so, with cloud adoption still trending upward, some legacy SD-WAN systems struggle to keep up due to insufficient scale and bandwidth. This is driving demand for the next generation of SD-WAN.
In a next-gen SD-WAN architecture, branch services such as network security can all be delivered from cloud platforms over any internet connection. Harnessing the power of machine learning and automation, it can boost WAN edge bandwidth, enable an improved user experience, and offer superior security.
Zscaler partners with the world’s leading SD-WAN vendors to provide comprehensive security, visibility, control, and data protection for branch users going directly to the internet. Together, we make it easy for your organization to migrate from a hub-and-spoke network to a cloud-delivered architecture by enabling secure local internet breakouts for your branch offices.
With the power of Zscaler Internet Access™ and leading SD-WAN service providers, you’ll be able to:
Zscaler seamlessly integrates with more than a dozen leading SD-WAN providers, including Aruba, Cisco, Juniper, VMware, and more, to offer you secure, fast, and reliable access to apps from any device, anywhere.
MPLS is a dedicated circuit, whereas SD-WAN provides a virtual overlay. SD-WAN is more cost-effective than MPLS connections, which tend to charge a usage-based premium. SD-WAN also offers more flexibility and allows you to leverage different types of network connections.
Unlike a VPN, SD-WAN optimizes network traffic across multiple transport media. It offers a more seamless and flexible connection than VPN by extending the traditional WAN to cloud platforms.
SD-WAN is a more flexible way to offer secure access in the age of the cloud, optimizing traffic flows to minimize latency. With zero-touch provisioning, it reduces operational costs and drastically speeds up deployment.
Zscaler secures direct-to-internet connections without backhauling, eliminating the cost and complexity of duplicating a hardware security stack at each location. With Zscaler and an SD-WAN service provider, you can reduce MPLS costs and provide fast, secure, application-aware access.