How to Make Use of the Six Underused SD-WAN Features?

How to Make Use of the Six Underused SD-WAN Features?

By Enterprise Networking Mag | Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Enterprises ought to consider the underutilized SD-WAN features for the benefits they offer despite showing reluctance to take risks.

FREMONT, CA: A Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is a unique approach to wide-area networking that combines traditional WAN technologies, like MPLS and broadband connections. SD-WAN products allow organizations to route traffic to remote locations and multiple offices; thus, decommissioning inflexible MPLS links and optimizing WAN traffic. Many of the initial SD-WAN offerings lack essential features like application-aware routing, advanced data analytics, and integrated firewalls. Meanwhile, many SD-WAN vendors have jazzed up their products to a robust set of additional features. However, a lot of capabilities of the latest SD-WAN products and managed service remain hindered as not many enterprises are utilizing them owing to various reasons. Enterprises should consider the benefits offered by SD-WAN features that are overlooked by them. Here are some of the underutilized SD-WAN features.

Zero-touch provisioning

 Companies deploying thousands of SD-WAN devices across a wide geographic area, engage in bringing the physical device to a staging area, configure it, test it, and then ship it out to the branch to establish networking gear. This is a manually intensive and time-consuming process. Zero-touch provisioning which is a standard feature in most of the SD-WAN devices that automatically configures an out-of-the-box device. It needs an internet connection in all the devices so it can phone home where it is then fully configured in a fast, efficient, standardized manner based on predefined templates.

Multiplexed VPNs

In scenarios like merger and acquisition, the unified company may be a single entity on paper, but for reasons like compliance and security, they should operate independently. If the company plans to upgrade to SD-WAN, it might consider buying two sets of physical devices. However, SD-WAN technology allows multiple virtual routing and forwarding (VRF) and VPN links to be multiplexed with a single overlay. The technology allows creating nearly 16 virtual VPNs, all running on the same physical WAN links.

Rotating Encryption Keys

Encryption keys need to be switched regularly usually every 90 days, which is a tedious manual process as it involves complex change control policies and requires planned downtime. This is mandatory for enterprises doing businesses with government-owned businesses like aerospace and defense companies. SD-WAN platforms, on the other hand, result in better security, eliminate downtime, and manual intervention, as it replaces VPN-based key rotations with an automated system. Encryption keys frequently rotate every minute without any interruption to data plane traffic.

Data Analytics

Data Analytics is another underused SD-WAN feature that troubleshoots network performance issues and performs long-range network capacity planning. Using analytics capabilities can eliminate typical finger-pointing that occurs between the enterprise customer, the IPS, the cloud services provider, the last-mile provider, and many more.

Service Chaining

When branch office traffic was routed back to the data center via secure MPLS links, it did not require additional networking and security functionality in the branch. Now, with the branch office connecting directly to the Internet, companies need multiple branch office devices like firewalls, NAT boxes, and intrusion prevention systems. By employing service chaining, companies can reduce branch office clutter. Organizations may create a chain of linked network services and optimize how different traffic flows are handled in areas such as protection, latency, or QoS, depending on the traffic requirements.

End-to-end micro-segmentation

One of the approaches becoming popular to secure applications running in data centers and cloud environments is microsegmentation. It gives companies greater control over east-west traffic, and in the event of breaches, microsegmentation limits potential lateral movement by hackers. Notably, the software overlays like SDN and NFV paved the way for microsegmentation, such that microsegmentation would become a feature of SD-WAN overlays.

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