Making Sense of SDN and SD-WAN

Making Sense of SDN and SD-WAN

Software Defined Networking and Software-defined WAN have been the object of considerable buzz and confusion of late. Where does one begin and the other end? The two are related elements of an emerging way to dynamically design and manage networks. Both are enabled by the separation of the network control plane, which determines routing, and the data plane that designates traffic forwarding. Both are designed to run on commodity hardware; can be virtualized in software; and support the integration of virtual network functions (VNF). SDN is being applied in the following environments:

  • Service provider networks
  • Wide area networks
  • Local area networks
  • Data centers
SDN has had its greatest success in the WAN environment with the ability to evolve networks to be more dynamic and responsive to changing computing models and business demands. SDNs are programmable, enabling simplified and centralized change management. But the implementation of SDN requires careful planning so that enterprise networks become modular, scalable assets that can be assembled and rearranged as computing requirements change. The so-called Third Platform, which includes cloud, mobility, social business and big data analytics is driving the need for SDN—a market expected to be worth about $12.5 billion in 2020,” according to a Network Infrastructure report from market researcher IDC.

Application Awareness

SD-WAN’s raison d’etre is the provision of software defined application routing. SD-WAN is being used to connect enterprises’ distributed locations regionally or globally and is most attractive in providing connectivity between remote locations and cloud-based applications and services. While SD-WAN is based on SDN principles, it provides agility by maintaining centralized business policies and prioritization of application routing. Some key considerations for IT decision-makers when adopting SD-WAN include:
  • Hard and soft costs
  • Degree of resiliency required
  • WAN application performance requirements
  • In-house and partner expertise
IT departments can opt to buy SD-WAN products and handle the implementation themselves although many organizations choose to leave the heavy lifting to qualified service providers due to the complications of integrating the new technology into an existing WAN infrastructure. The latter requires detailed knowledge of how the network and services such as voice, video and WiFi are configured. It also requires an understanding of how this new element will impact the organization’s existing security model. Businesses can take advantage of SDN and SD-WAN through their managed service providers. Masergy has been delivering software defined networking to customers for a decade in the form of network control and visibility. To learn more, check out: SDN and NFV in the WAN: Driving Toward the Programmable Enterprise and Masergy’s Managed SD-WAN: New Performance Options for Hybrid Networks.

About Paul Ruelas

Director, Product Management, Masergy
Paul Ruelas is Director of Network Products at Masergy. He brings over 26 years of expertise in telecommunications, IP Networks, complex solution design, and product development. Paul has developed many Ethernet and optical products that enabled numerous global enterprises to transform their data communication infrastructures to improve business outcomes. Paul is an industry thought leader in communication transformation and on topics such as hybrid networking, SDN, NFV, and cloud connectivity.