Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) reduces WAN management complexity, application performance unpredictability and data vulnerability by decoupling hardware from control mechanisms. It combines MPLS and broadband Internet connections to create a smart hybrid WAN that automatically routes traffic on the best available path.
It also enables businesses to optimize applications sensitive to latency and packet loss.
How SD-WAN Works
SD-WAN technology enables enterprise networks to connect and expand across various connections, including MPLS, broadband Internet, VPNs, wireless, and direct Internet. It provides remote locations and employees with access to critical applications. It provides WAN bandwidth and performance that improves application availability, reliability, and security and lowers costs. So what is SD-WAN? An SD-WAN enables direct connections between remote sites, cloud services, and other remote sites without needing pricey MPLS cables, unlike traditional WANs that backhaul data to a central source. It reduces latency, jitter and packet loss and optimizes application performance.
It also simplifies network management by decoupling networking hardware from the control mechanism and allowing for centralized traffic direction. It reduces or eliminates the need to manually configure individual gateways and routers at each site, which can significantly mitigate operational risks. The centralized management interface of an SD-WAN also makes it easier to track application performance from a single location. It’s simple to assign routes to different applications based on criticality and to vary bandwidth access based on real-time demands from a single point. A reliable SD-WAN vendor, like Fortinet, uses the highest encryption available for each link in a network, ensuring data is secure.
The Control Plane
In network routing, the control plane decides how a data packet should be forwarded to its destination. It draws the network topology, creates and populates a routing table, and enables the forwarding plane to function. The router then uses the information from this plane to forward data packets quickly and accurately. The control plane also handles all communication related to routing protocols between routers and all management traffic and network policies. It is not, however, responsible for the actual forwarding of packets, which is the responsibility of the data plane.
It makes separating responsibilities between control and data planes so important. With a clear split of roles, we can achieve the efficiencies that come with SD-WAN. The control plane formulates and distributes guidance to the data plane, overseeing the orchestration of containers, nodes, pods, and clusters. It also implements and enforces network policy across the entire architecture. It is an arduous task, but one that is essential to achieving the benefits of SD-WAN.
The Edge Router
Edge routers are located at the network’s edges, keeping communication flowing between networks. They can be wired or wireless routers. Edge devices can even act as a gateway to the Internet or multiple Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Edge routers send connection requests to the controller via the control plane over a secure connection. They can be configured to prioritize contacts based on top-level domain and other characteristics. Most vendors offer hardware-based edge routers to meet the needs of small and medium-sized businesses. These can be purchased with an intuitive graphical interface, making setting up routing, security and management features easy. An integrated command-line interface gives advanced users direct access to the device’s features. One of the primary functions of edge routers is to inspect and verify data packets before letting them enter a core network. It helps to ensure that only legitimate applications and traffic are allowed into a company’s network. It can prevent various security risks, from unauthorized traffic to malware and ransomware.
A network gateway is a piece of hardware that enables data to move across distinct networks. Like modems and routers, they connect your computers or wireless devices to the Internet. But the difference is that network gateways can also efficiently translate and distribute information from different networks. It is because network gateways can handle multiple protocols on a single device. And since they’re located at the edge of a network, they have visibility into all incoming and outgoing data. It allows them to provide analytics that can help form better cybersecurity systems.
There are many network gateways to suit a wide range of needs. These include API, SOA and XML gateways – which manage traffic that flows into and out of an application or microservice. IoT gateways sift through sensor protocols and aggregate data before sending it on. Media gateways convert data from one format to another before it’s transmitted across the network. And email security gateways prevent common threats from breaching corporate policy and passing into the wild. The network gateway is a combination of a modem and a router. It translates the data from your home from the cable or phone lines and then transmits it to your wireless devices. It also acts as a firewall to filter unwanted data and ensure that only the right information is passed through.