A Guide to Understanding SD-WAN

A Guide to Understanding SD-WAN

Enterprise Networking Mag | Tuesday, January 17, 2023

A software-defined wide-area network, or SD-WAN, allows an organization to create a secure corporate WAN using existing infrastructure.

FREMONT, CA: Corporate networks and networking needs have expanded and evolved. Companies have grown and added branch offices, cloud infrastructure, and cloud-based applications. Workers and remote locations require secure, high-performance corporate and cloud applications access.

Historically, businesses have utilized multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) to connect remote sites, but these connections are costly and scalable to a limited degree. SD-WAN enables enterprises to securely connect their distributed architecture to high-performance and dependable network connections.

SD-WAN architecture is a logical layer that overlays physical networks. SD-WAN solutions can create a virtual, secure WAN on top of physical networks by utilizing software-defined networking (SDN).

Most on-premises SD-WAN architectures, for instance, rely on the Internet, MPLS links, mobile networks, and other publicly accessible transport media to carry their traffic. When network traffic enters the corporate WAN via SD-WAN points of presence (PoP), it is routed to the PoP closest to its destination securely and efficiently. Due to SD-monitoring WANs of link health and understanding the requirements of different types of application traffic, an organization can achieve greater network performance and reliability by leveraging an SD-WAN architecture.


SD-WAN architectures are composed of a network of SD-WAN PoPs connected by one or more network media (broadband Internet, MPLS, mobile networks, etc.). SD-WAN PoPs can be deployed in a variety of form factors, including:

Physical Appliance: A company can deploy SD-WAN PoPs using dedicated physical hardware in their on-premises deployments, branch offices, or enterprise data centers.

Virtual Appliance: Hardware such as universal customer premises equipment (uCPE) or corporate servers can also be configured for SD-WAN deployment as a virtual machine.

Cloud-Native: Some SD-WAN offerings implement SD-WAN functionality in software, allowing them to be natively deployed in the cloud and reap its benefits.


A business can implement an SD-WAN architecture in a variety of ways. The three primary SD-WAN deployment types are:

DIY/On-Prem: Organizations can self-implement SD-WAN by deploying SD-WAN appliances at their on-premises and cloud network locations. SD-WAN PoPs are frequently connected via the public Internet, but they compete with MPLS links by optimizing network routing based on monitoring the health of available network links.

Managed SD-WAN: Managed SD-WAN, also known as SD-WAN as a Service, provides SD-WAN functionality as a cloud-native, consumption-based solution. The SD-WAN as a Service provider grants customers access to their optimized and dedicated network backend, providing higher performance and reliability guarantees than an on-premises SD-WAN deployment based on the Internet.

Managed Service Provider (MSP): SD-WAN functionality is a typical service provided by Managed Service Providers (MSPs). The MSP is responsible for deploying and managing the organization's SD-WAN architecture, which is supported by service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee network performance and reliability.

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