Mythbusting SD-WAN: networking and hardware (Part 2 & Part 3)

A mini series on SD-WAN Myth busting by Jim Fulton, Forcepoint

Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) is currently generating a lot of hype. It can help organisations with distributed workforces use interactive cloud apps in a more productive and cost-effective way. In the first article of the series we discussed why SD-WAN is more than just saving money. In this article we discuss two another two myths around the software. 

Myth 2: SD-WAN doesn’t replace the internet—it improves access to it.

There is an existing myth that SD-WAN takes the place of the internet, or that it can replace previous ways of getting sites online and eliminates the need for on-premises hardware.

However, SD-WAN doesn’t actually replace the internet—it improves access to it. The myth can be attributed to the fact that often service providers offering proprietary network connections act as a front-end private network for getting to the internet.

SD-WAN is about choices, enabling you to connect each location directly to the internet in the most effective way possible. It doesn’t mandate any single type of link; in fact, it works best when mixing different types of technologies (e.g., cable, DSL, fiber, 4G/LTE, even MPLS lines that are still under contract) and different ISPs.

SD-WAN provides a better way to tailor connectivity to each site’s needs and local market conditions but shouldn’t limit or take the place of any websites or internet applications.

Myth 3: SD-WAN eliminates the need for on-premises hardware

Because much of SD-WAN is about cloud-based computing and connection, there is a perception that it reduces the need for on-premises hardware. When using highly interactive cloud apps like Office 365 that work best over low latency, high-bandwidth connections, SD-WAN is frequently used to direct traffic across specific links. It also can enforce use of techniques such as encryption to provide privacy and data transmission security for accessing cloud apps that aren’t already relying on SSL/TLS.

But even with SD-WAN, internet links and local networks are still plugged into on-premises equipment. Fortunately, SD-WAN solutions automate and centralise the management of such devices, allowing new locations to be deployed without an on-site technician.

You need strong security wherever you connect to the internet. Leading research and advisory company Gartner now advises organisations to put the same level of security in each branch office that they have at their primary internet gateway.

Most basic SD-WAN services either ignore this or tack on rudimentary firewalls. Modern enterprise SD-WAN solutions integrate full next generation firewall and IPS capabilities to eliminate gaps and provide combined networking and security management for each site. Enterprise SD-WAN consolidates networking and security into a single box.

The use of SD-WAN is becoming increasingly popular; however, it is another way of connecting to the internet, not a replacement for the internet and rigorous security should still be enforced.

 About the author:

Jim Fulton – Director, Product Marketing, Network Security, Forcepoint

Jim has been creating and evangelizing enterprise connectivity and security solutions for more than 20 years. At Forcepoint, he focuses on how network security can go beyond simply keeping people safe to truly transform their business. Previously, he held marketing and engineering roles at numerous Silicon Valley companies. He holds a degree in computer science from MIT.

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