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What is SD-WAN and Why Should I Be Paying Attention to It?

By Northland Controls, Mar 18, 2021

With news of a major cloud video management system's extensive security breach making headlines this past week, many companies are left wondering: is my network secure? One growing technology, SD-WAN, is gaining traction to make sure that answer is yes.

A software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) uses software to control the connectivity, management, and services between data centers and remote branches or cloud instances - essentially detaching the control plane from the data plane. According to Halo Global, a leading SD-WAN and global connectivity provider, SD-WAN has an adoption rate of just 14% today but that number is expected to grow to a staggering 85% in the next two years. They go on to say that this new technology is “the most groundbreaking, disruptive technology in the marketplace from a wide area network (WAN) perspective.” So, what is SD-WAN and why should you be paying attention?

By using a centralized control function to securely and intelligently direct traffic across the WAN, businesses can take advantage of a number of benefits like a higher quality user experience and increased application performance. Let’s explore some of the promised benefits of implementing this enhanced platform.

Increased Network Security
SD-WAN uses built-in encryption and VPNs to secure traffic that is sent over public internet connection. This feature eliminates the need for things like firewalls, building your own VPN, or encrypting your traffic as it is directly built-into the platform itself. Not only does this provide a more simplistic approach to securing your network but has added benefits of building full mesh and reducing the amount of traffic that needs to go through security measures.

Zero-Outage Network
In today’s highly connected world, network outages can be detrimental to a company’s bottom line. With SD-WAN, a zero-outage network means disruptions to the network or performance are auto-corrected. Whereas typical WAN network engineers would have to manually monitor and mitigate problems as they arise, SD-WAN removes the human element to quickly identify problems and provide redundancy so that networks can be transitioned to a secondary or tertiary provider for seamless failover when needed.

Improved Trouble Shooting and Resolution Tools
The SD-WAN platform delivers enhanced trouble shooting and resolution tools so that when a disruption does happen, a response can be deployed within seconds and minutes instead of hours or days. Monitoring and alerting capabilities for active threats not only means heightened security, but it also allows administrators to eliminate the resource intensive processes of manually identifying the failure. The end result is less downtime. Additionally, SD-WAN can provide historical analytics to retroactively assess disruptions and support future business decisions.

According to the Cloud Infrastructure Report surveying at least 150 IT decision makers, 85% of organizations are expected to shift the majority of their workloads to the cloud by the end of 2020. With more and more companies relying on the cloud, it is imperative for any new technology to be cloud capable. The ability to quickly and securely tie in cloud services is another major advantage of using SD-WAN. Halo Global, indicates that SD-WAN gives companies the ability for new branches to join the VPN network automatically with access to all resources in other branches, enterprise data centers, and 3rd party data centers, like Amazon AWS.

An emerging technology that will compliment SD-WAN in the future is SASE (pronounced “sassy”). Coined by Gartner in the 2019 report, The Future of Network Security in the Cloud, SASE is the “convergence of wide area networking, or WAN, and network security services, like Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) and Zero Trust, into a single, cloud-delivered service model.” Expected to grow from less than 1% adoption rate at the end of 2018 to an anticipated 40% in 2024, SASE gives organizations the ability to provide secure access for their users, applications, and devices no matter where in the world they are located.

Northland Controls is leveraging SD-WAN to securely connect to our managed services’ customer sites. By doing so, we are making connections to our customers more secure, more robust, and more resistant to outages. Just a few benefits that our managed services clients have seen include:

  • Faster onboarding and monitoring because of simplified configuration
  • Increased peace of mind that their network will remain online and secure for uninterrupted business operations
  • More rapid response to issues because of enhanced reporting tools
  • More options to integrate with 3rd party services for cloud computing and hosting

With the growing popularity of this new technology, there is a good chance you will be talking or hearing about it in the future, if you haven’t already. Want to learn more about how Northland Controls is using SD-WAN for our managed services clients? Reach out to our team at