Benefits of SD-WAN

Over the past few years, many organizations have turned to software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology to improve the agility, flexibility, and security of their company-wide networking systems. This technology has also changed how wide-area networking connectivity is secured and optimized. Here is some information about software-defined WANs, their benefits, and how they compare to alternative options.

What is SD-WAN?

A software-defined wide area network relies on software to control network services, management, and connectivity between the cloud, remote locations, and data centers within an organization. It is layered on top of existing infrastructure and decouples the control and data levels.

Software-defined WAN can be built on top of existing hardware or virtualized customer premises equipment (vCPE) by simultaneously operating software to handle networking, security, policy, and other network management tasks. Unlike a software-defined network (SDN), which uses software to operate a local area network (LAN), software-defined WAN works with a wide-area network to provide intelligent connectivity for numerous remote locations within an organization. This technology can handle different types of connections, including wireless, broadband, and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). It also can secure and partition data as it travels across the wide-area network.

How Software-Defined WAN Works

Traditional wide-area networks use physical routers to connect remote users to data centers to allow them to access hosted applications. Every router includes a data plane that holds information and a control plane that directs the information to different locations. Policies and rules for each networked router must be written by a network administrator or engineer, which can be a time-consuming process and a potential source of errors.

By contrast, software-defined WANs decouple the management and control processes from the underlying infrastructure by using software that can easily be configured and implemented. The control plane is centralized so that network administrators can write, configure, and deploy new policies and rules across the wide-area network simultaneously without having to install and configure new hardware at each remote location.

What Are the Benefits of SD-WAN?

Software-defined WAN technology has become increasingly popular as more organizations turn to cloud-based applications to manage their business operations. The benefits of software-defined WAN technology have driven its adoption by many far-flung operations for better security, reduced costs, time-savings, and more.

Reduced Costs

A key advantage of software-defined WAN technology is its cost-effectiveness. While a traditional WAN model requires organizations to install servers and routers in remote offices so that traffic can be backhauled to a centralized data center, a software-defined WAN does not require additional hardware installation. Backhauling data from remote offices to the hub via MPLS connections is also more expensive than using wireless links or internet broadband. Software-defined WAN also improves the cybersecurity of an organization’s network, helping to reduce the risk of major data breaches and their associated costs.

Optimized Performance

Software-defined WAN simplifies the management of network traffic and how it is directed across the network. With MPLS networking, data from a branch office must be returned to the hub so that it can be inspected for security purposes. Backhauling of data can reduce the performance of applications and impact the organization’s productivity and end-user experience. MPLS networks can’t handle the large volumes of data over wide area networks from cloud resources and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.

By contrast, software-defined WANs can manage multiple connection types and support SaaS applications, cloud resources, and applications hosted by data centers. Traffic can be routed across the WANs in real time over the most efficient paths. Cloud and internet traffic can be sent directly from the branch office without needing to backhaul it.

The ability of a software-defined WAN to manage multiple connection types across the wide-area network also improves the experience of end users while improving the performance of the applications. Hybrid connections can be managed dynamically while guaranteeing high-quality services.

Improved Cybersecurity with Software Defined Wide Area Networks

A major advantage of a software-defined WAN is its ability to enhance cybersecurity across the network. Organizations can partition and segment sensitive data and assets and protect them from vulnerabilities in other areas. This ability is critical in organizations that regularly handle sensitive information, including financial services, healthcare, and retail organizations.

Software-defined WAN also offers firewall capabilities that allow the networking technology to be quickly deployed at distant offices without harming security. The network can be segmented by administrators to detect and prevent DDoS attacks, inspect and filter packets based on their applications, encrypt data, and monitor active connections.


Since software-defined WANs rely on software, they can be rapidly deployed to new remote offices without the need to add more hardware at each location. This feature means that software-defined WANs are much more scalable than traditional WANs. When your organization adds new branches and locations, your SD-WAN can quickly be deployed to bring those locations online without the need to install additional servers and routers.

Software-defined WAN vs. MPLS

MPLS is a widely-used method for organizations to connect the local area networks that comprise a wide area network (WAN). MPLS relies on specialized routers to direct packets along pre-set network paths. MPLS networks are time-consuming to set up, require the installation of hardware at each location, are expensive, and necessitate contracts with telecommunications providers.

Software-defined WANs use software instead of hardware to connect remote local area networks (LANs) across the wide-area network. They do not need any specialized routers and run on the internet, making them less expensive to deploy. Implementing SD-WAN technology will not mean that your organization can’t continue to use MPLS as it can be one of the methods your SD-WAN uses. However, software-defined WAN technology is much more cost-effective and flexible than an organization-wide use of MPLS.

Some of the advantages of software-defined WAN over MPLS include the following:

  • No need for specialized routers and servers
  • No bandwidth restrictions
  • Works with any ISP
  • Better flexibility with intelligent connectivity
  • Easier integration with the cloud

Software-defined WAN vs. VPN

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are commonly used by companies that want to connect a remote worker to the corporate network securely or to connect two corporate networks by creating a secure path between the two parties that protects their data from eavesdropping. A VPN is a good end-to-end data encryption solution that encrypts all outgoing traffic while decrypting all incoming traffic. A VPN can provide a good way for an organization to support remote workers by providing a secure connection to the network. However, a VPN is not as cost-effective or reliable as a software-defined WAN and doesn’t deliver the same performance. When an organization scales multiple remote locations and workers, a VPN’s complexity quickly outweighs its cost advantages. Software-defined WANs offer service-level agreements for optimal performance, integrate with the cloud in a way that VPNs can’t do, and offer features such as application routing and better quality of service not provided by VPNs.


Software-defined networks (SDN) operate under similar principles as software-defined WANs. An SDN also relies on software but only works within LANs. By contrast, software-defined WANs work across wide-area networks and connect multiple locations. This allows a software-defined WAN to securely route data between remote locations and can support networks across disparate geographical regions. An SDN only operates within a LAN. If your company has remote employees and geographically distributed locations, a software-defined WAN makes more sense than an SDN for your organization.

The use case for SDN is best for small organizations that operate one local area network. It provides a secure solution within the LAN but isn’t a good option for organizations with large remote workforces and numerous, geographically-distributed locations.


Software-defined WANs are scalable, flexible, and can simultaneously manage multiple types of connections across the wide-area network. They are a much more cost-effective solution for organizations to deploy than MPLS and offer distinct performance advantages over VPNs. If your organization has many remote workers and multiple locations or branches, turning to software-defined WAN technology might be a good networking solution. Deploying a software-defined WAN within your organization can be fast, relatively inexpensive, and provide better integration with the cloud, improved performance and end-user experience, and better cybersecurity without the need for additional hardware. If you are interested in learning more about software-defined WAN technology, contact us for more information.