SD-WAN Explained in 7 Steps for Beginners
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SD-WAN Explained in 7 Steps for Beginners

SD-WAN Explained in 7 Steps for Beginners

Times have changed. More enterprises are subscribing to SaaS services and using the cloud to run their operations. This is as opposed to the traditional way of working, where users would use connections back to their corporate data centre to access business applications.

A software-defined wide area network, otherwise known as SD-WAN, is a virtual WAN architecture that enables enterprises to leverage the cloud and any combination of connectivity services such as broadband internet, LTE, and MPLS. Users can be securely connected to their desired applications, while each class of applications will receive security policy enforcement and QoS based on business needs.

A traditional WAN uses conventional routers, which aren’t designed to be cloud-based. They require the routing of traffic from branch offices to a data centre, where security inspection services can be implemented. This can weaken application performance, leading to lost productivity and a poor user experience.

Unlike a traditional WAN architecture, the SD-WAN model is made to fully support applications hosted in public or private clouds, on-premise data centres, and SaaS services while delivering high performance on all apps, especially critical applications.

sdwan software as a service (SaaS), cloud based applications

How Does SD-WAN Work?

A SD-WAN (software-defined WAN) has a central control function that will intelligently and securely direct all traffic across the WAN. This ensures high-quality application performance and an excellent user experience.

The SD-WAN technology is a network that can be managed remotely without the need for an on-premises IT team. In the software-defined network, there are two parts: the forwarding plane and the control plane. The SD-WAN architecture directs the control plane to a central location such as a business headquarters.

On the virtualized network, there are three main components: the SD-WAN edge, SD-WAN orchestrator, and the SD-WAN controller.

The edge is where all the network endpoints are located, such as the remote data centre, cloud platform, or branch office. An orchestrator is a virtualized manager for the network, applies protocol and policy set by the business or IT manager, and oversees traffic. A controller allows IT managers to view the network, centralises management, and sets policies for the orchestrator to conduct. These three components are the foundation of the structure of an SD-WAN. It can lead to cost savings for IT resources and improve business productivity. The SD-WAN architecture improves bandwidth efficiency and offers a seamless on-ramp to the cloud while still providing data privacy and security to all users.

Now that we’ve talked about what a software-defined network is and how the SD-WAN solutions work, let’s dive deeper and talk about what you need to know about SD-WAN.

1. Benefits of SD-WAN

sd-wan work from home, sd-wan advantages

There are many reasons to choose SD-WAN services, such as facilitating work from home capabilities, improving resiliency, and ensuring that critical applications are prioritised for efficient application performance.

Working from home typically requires IT teams to expand the corporate network to include remote access and security for home offices. With the SD-WAN solution, IT managers will have total visibility and control of the network for home offices, similar to how they can oversee a branch location. Businesses can access network protocols and control network utility while also extending secure connections to the home.

Using SPTel’s SD-WAN solutions, your enterprise can have built-in redundancy. This means that if any of your connections goes down, traffic will be re-routed to another connection. You can even diversify your connectivity by adding multiple service providers.

An SD-WAN solution will let you prioritize critical applications by optimizing the path that traffic goes through for improved user experience and application performance.

2. Why SD-WAN is Replacing Traditional Network Management Solutions

If you’re struggling with ensuring optimal performance for your network services and infrastructure, it may be time to adopt a cloud migration strategy. Traditional WAN traffic solutions usually use public and leased lines, which can hinder agility and growth for your business. This form of network infrastructure faces a few problems, including high cost, its high dependence on a central data centre, inflexibility, and unpredictable performance.

Traditional WAN, specifically MPLS, requires one provider to access many virtual appliances and sites. Often the single provider will resell the service from other providers to you, which adds additional cost to your WAN. This networking architecture doesn’t allow branch offices to have direct access to cloud resources. As mentioned, WAN traffic must be backhauled through data centres. As a result, performance suffers tremendously.

Also, MPLS networks produce a single failure in the network if no additional auto backup services is added, making it challenging to allow for a failover solution of equal security, connectivity, and performance without creating a complex managed solution. Difficulties in prioritizing data traffic over VPN could cause performance to suffer in key applications like video and voice applications.

SD-WAN aims to solve many of the issues that traditional WAN simply cannot. SD-WAN can provide management teams multiple streams of traffic with one centrally managed point in the network. This cloud-based technology will help lower circuit costs, utilise the cloud which will give users real-time access to their applications anywhere, improve prioritization of critical applications, and support high bandwidth appliances.

Branches have direct access to cloud appliances for improved performance without sacrificing security, as the cloud provides more flexibility compared to hosting on a local server.

SD-WAN also allows you to outsource your IT management. By relying on an outside organization, who are typically experts, to manage the IT infrastructure and hosting, you can focus on other aspects of your business that improve your company’s bottom line. If you need additional bandwidth, cloud-based services can accommodate your needs.

3. Differences Between Basic SD-WAN and Business SD-WAN

cybersecurity sd-wan, software defined networking

Not all software-defined networks are the same. There are basic SD-WAN and business SD-WAN. Most basic SD-WAN offer zero-touch provisioning but may lack full end-to-end orchestration on WAN edge functions like routing security services. These services include WAN optimization and service chaining to third-party security services. In situations where a network security policy change is needed or new applications are deployed, the business SD-WAN supports central network management, meaning the configurations can be made in minutes rather than weeks or months.

In addition, a basic SD-WAN uses traffic-based management according to pre-defined rules and templates. A business SD-WAN can optimize the performance of application traffic under any condition such as impairments or congestion. It will adjust in real-time to changes in the networks. For example, if a cloud security service or WAN transport service suffers from impairment in connections, such as blackout or brownout conditions, the network technology can adapt to keep traffic flowing while remaining compliant with business policies.

Basic SD-WAN service providers will offer similar features to a VPN service. The basic models require configuration on a device-by-device basis. In contrast, business-driven SD-WAN has more robust end-to-end security capabilities. A business SD-WAN pushes the new program to thousands of nodes across the network to boost operational efficiency while also providing a secure connection. The updates will prevent security breaches and attacks.

Business grade SD-WAN solutions come paired with infrastructure that is software-defined as well, making the overall solution more scalable and customizable to business needs. In particular, SPTel’s Business class digital network provides a highly scalable and reliable solution specifically for enterprises and government sectors. We offer flexible plans and on-demand bandwidth services, so you can streamline or scale up your network within minutes to optimize performance. That way, you can not only monitor and manage your network with your SD-WAN solution, you’ll also be able to react pro-actively and make changes on the fly for optimum performance.

4. Differences Between SD-WAN and SDN

sd-wan vs sdn, sd-wan used in office and data center

SDN and SD-WAN offer similar networking architectures but differ in how they are utilized. SDN is an infrastructure controlled centrally by software applications and owned by the telco operator. In comparison, an SD-WAN is a device that improves upon the traditional branch routers. It has the capacity to control appliances and application-level policies along with a total view of network performance.

SDN is used primarily in data centres only. These connection types help reduce operational costs, enable on-demand services, and improve the network’s scalability and performance. Comparatively, SD-WANs are an affordable alternative to multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) networks by routing connectivity to an array of geographical locations in a secure and scalable way. They are frequently used in both offices and data centres.

The way that each network design can reduce costs differ. SDN saves costs through operational efficiencies, while SD-WANs improve operational efficiencies and leverage lower WAN transport to reduce costs. Another differentiation is the zero-touch provisioning (ZTP) that SD-WANs offer. ZTP automatically configures updates to devices which frees your IT team time for other tasks. This automated process will eliminate potential errors when your IT admins have to manually configure devices. For example, the ZTP can easily configure settings like WiFi and email logins to all devices quickly. It can also centrally re-assign licenses and deploy apps over the cloud. ZTP automatically collects data from hardware and software details for every device. And its adds additional layers of security such as enforcing passcodes, wiping devices, and remotely locking them.

However, there’s a way to combine the best of both networks to meet the demands of any business and accelerate digitalization. SPTel is the only service provider to provide an end-to-end SDN solution where digitalised services are enabled by their SDN and integrated with the customer’s SD-WAN portal. This allows IT administrators to have a full view of their network health and make adjustments as needed. SPTel offers dynamic resource allocation by allowing enterprises to increase cybersecurity and bandwidth as needed, only paying for what they need, which is much more cost-effective. Find out more here.

5. What Does an SD-WAN Service Provider Do?

sd-wan provider, managed service provider

SD-WAN service providers aim to manage WAN services for enterprise organizations. It is designed for end-users who don’t want to manage their WAN appliances and network and would rather outsource these services to a third-party organization. Some vendors partner with large service providers such as Nokia, Velocloud, and Cisco.

However, unlike most SD-WAN providers, SPTel incorporates SDN technology to WAN connections. As a result, end-users can more easily set and manage protocols for their networks. IT admins can configure secure end-to-end zones and centrally orchestrate granular security policies. Your enterprise has complete real-time visibility over performance and bandwidth usage to optimize application performance and ensure critical appliances have maximum availability and uptime.

It also provides highly flexible packages that can scale up and down according to your business needs.

6. Industries that Benefit from SD-WAN

SD-WAN can be beneficial to any business that requires internet access, especially for businesses that operate in multiple office locations. This simplifies the use of internet connectivity, allowing IT managers to easily manage and control their network. Larger corporations or any enterprise that still utilises an MPLS can benefit from upgrading from a traditional WAN to an SD-WAN.

Cloud computing can save your IT team time and money from managing the networks, not to mention improved application efficiency. Finally, SD-WAN technology can significantly improve work-from-home arrangements by helping customers build a business-grade home office network. With a home SD-WAN solution, employees won’t have to worry about getting locked out from timeouts or needing multiple sign-on for VPN. This makes SD-WAN a great option for companies that are looking to make work-from-home arrangements semi-permanent or even permanent in the medium to short term.

7. The Evolution and Future of SD-WAN

the future of sd-wan, automated sd-wan deployment

Software-defined networks are evolving. New technology is being built on top of the core of the infrastructure, specifically the security, cloud interconnection, and automation within the network design. Many organizations are shifting to a regional security model, whereby centralized security stacks are expanded into regional hubs to improve the end-user experience.

In addition, these regional hubs are located in special carrier-neutral facilities (CNF) that are close to many service providers, thereby offering network inter-connectivity. As a result, these organizations can receive WAN connectivity aggregation from multiple service providers. The CNF provides a multi-cloud strategy where the network has the most efficient path between the application and the user for optimum performance.

An SD-WAN can automate configuration changes and automated deployment, allowing enterprises to be more competitive in the business landscape and greater agility to adapt to their needs. The networks can be easily programmed to automatically resolve common issues or networking tasks. This WAN optimization aims to resolve the complexity that many IT teams face regularly.


  1. SD-WAN technology makes it simple for any business to manage their network by improving WAN connectivity and lower monthly costs.
  2. This network architecture makes it possible to connect multiple internet connections to provide everything an organization needs like voice, video, and data.
  3. IT managers can manage the network remotely and program automatic tasks to trouble, install or protect your network.
  4. SD-WAN is able to improve application performance by using a multi-cloud system.
  5. Cloud computing is flexible, allowing enterprises to scale or downsize as needed.

If you’re looking for a best-in-class provider to upgrade your network, consider SPTel’s SD-WAN solution. By pairing our SDN with an SD-WAN solution, it provides total visibility and control of your network, so you can view traffic analytics and maximize with on demand solutions such as bandwidth and cybersecurity to maximise performance. Contact us here to learn more!