How well would your network work if it were controlled from a centralized point where all links look and operate like one logical link? It’s the ambition of many a network operator in the move towards software-defined networking (SDN), but the logical choice to ease the process is found in software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN).

For years, wide area networking (WAN) has dominated the network infrastructure, providing the foundation necessary to stay connected. As more sophisticated technologies enter the scene to support advanced communications, operators are gravitating toward more logical approaches to getting information from one place to another. The SD-WAN controller is designed to determine which physical path each packet should take with quality connections as the ultimate goal.

To accomplish the quality connection, SD-WAN measures the characteristics of the path. An encapsulating header is added to the standard network traffic in order to transit each of the encompassing links. Sequence numbers and time stamps are included in the header to enable the receiving SD-WAN controller to determine jitter, latency and packet loss of that particular path.

Next, synthetic traffic is sent through the same method using the same measurement tools to capture the information. While both methods rely on network bandwidth to perform their functions, the latter doesn’t rely on normal traffic flows. A combination of the two measurements is then used by the SD-WAN controllers in order to ascertain the best path to actual quality performance without relying on normal network traffic.

This is important information as SD-WAN administrators rely on such calculations to group network traffic into separate classes. This, in turn, enables the right path for the traffic, based on those characteristics. The more important traffic is prioritized according to paths and ports, while less important traffic may use a simple Internet VPN path. As a result, network operators have the opportunity to improve overall network performance, all while controlling activities from a centralized location and enabling automation to keep improving over time.

While this is just a glimpse into the benefits afforded with SD-WAN, there are still challenges to implementation. It is a more expensive method and the learning curve for IT administrators is significant. Before deciding that this is the optimal path for efficiency in your environment, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons and determine whether or not this makes sense for you in the long-term.

Ultimately, making that determination on your own could be very challenging. Fortunately, the experts at SimpleWAN are accustomed to this kind of challenge. Give us a call and we’ll review your situation together, getting into the nitty gritty of what makes sense and what doesn’t. You’ll then be better equipped to make the right choice.