The Ultimate Guide


Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD WAN)

Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD WAN)

For corporations that need to bring the service, security, and quality of their network to multiple branches, their WAN (Wide Area Network) needs to be flexible and up-to-date, serving their corporate goals and protecting their data.

But hardware-based WANs aren’t keeping pace with the speed of business. They’re created with the mindset that work is mainly done from a workstation rather than out in the field. They use telecom infrastructure that may or may not reach all of a company’s branches. And they’re built on expensive gear that doesn’t adapt as technology changes.

That’s why today’s enterprise-level corporations are moving from a legacy WAN to SD WAN (Software Defined Wide Area Network) so they can:

  • Stay ahead of threats.
  • Keep on top of the latest advancements without the added expense.
  • Scale with business needs.
  • Deliver high-quality Internet anywhere in the world.
  • Integrate seamlessly with many services over the Multicloud.

Consumers are already used to their computers, phones, and other devices being “software-defined.” Software-defined systems make life easier by continuously updating and improving performance without a hardware upgrade.

(For more information on this topic, see our article about Software Defined Everything, or SDx.)

But for corporations, software-definition needs to start at the network level. That’s where some of the most significant opportunities for advancement—as well as cost-savings—lie.

It’s also where the most significant threats are, and where consistently updated software systems are most crucial.

In this guide, we’ll define SD WAN, show how it works, and outline the top providers and their offerings. Then we’ll explain how to harness it, reducing expenses, improving security, and increasing competitiveness.

What Is SD WAN (Software Defined Wide Area Network)?

What Is SD WAN (Software Defined Wide Area Network)?

SD WAN is a Wide Area Network defined by its software rather than the infrastructure it requires, delivering the benefit of a stable and secure corporate computer network to multiple branches. SD WAN is cloud-friendly, integrates easily with other software systems, and updates continuously.

Centrally controlled through a single cloud-based application, administrators can oversee and manage the entire network at a glance. Employees can access it securely from a combination of Internet delivery systems:

  • MPLS
  • Frame-relay
  • LTE
  • Broadband
  • DSL

The structure can work with lower-quality connections and make adjustments automatically, giving users a consistent experience even with a poorer quality connection.

And built-in VPN (Virtual Private Network) functionality keeps corporate data secure no matter where users log in.

Unlike hardware-defined WAN, SD WAN is not dependent on infrastructure leased from telecom companies.

The associated hardware is much smaller, less expensive, and can be paid for as a service.

Understand SD WAN


Gain a deeper understanding of SD WAN and learn how to choose which solution is right for your business needs.

How Does SD WAN Work?

How Does SD WAN Work?

SD WAN is built on the architecture of SDN, or Software Defined Networking.

SDN separates the data units it transports (also known as “network packets”) from the delivery system (circuits and wires). This technology creates a dynamic and more easily programmable network, allowing corporations a higher level of control and scalability.

SDN and SD WAN systems are managed via a full-bodied but simple control application. Administrators can push configurations, install apps, and automate tasks to any network device remotely.

This workflow, known as Zero-Touch Provisioning (ZTP), means IT can perform all of these functions without going to every branch location and to update hardware components.

ZTP increases control, efficiency, and consistency. Now, from a single application, network administrators can:

  • View the entire network and everything happening on it (telemetry).
  • Automatically set appropriate firewall settings to individual users, machines, apps, and devices.
  • Route, segment, and set permissions individually or in bulk, reducing labor cost and human error.

Corporations achieve greater scalability through SD WAN by allowing them to:

  • Secure a new branch in minutes by implementing an easy-to-use router.
  • Reduce the amount of hardware needed at any given location.
  • Pay for the solution as a service (OpEx) rather than making further capital investments (CapEx) when expanding.

Legacy MPLS systems achieved a high level of Internet consistency, but it could only do so for those who were on campus or part of a hardwired WAN. SD WAN can offer the same consistency by monitoring several available Internet services at once, including, but not limited to, MPLS.

SD WAN reflexively chooses whatever available Internet service is offering the best connection at any given moment, reducing brownouts and blackouts. It can even compensate for jitter (variations in network response times) by filling gaps in data.

It can respond to these variations in performance because, thanks to AI technology, the software is learning from the users themselves, as well as the network environment they’re working in.

When and Why Should a Company Move to SD WAN?

When and Why Should a Company Move to SD WAN??

Enterprise corporations with multiple campuses should consider moving to SD WAN when they are:

Positioned to upgrade from an aging
hardware-based WAN.
Requiring employees to access sensitive data over many kinds of Internet connections.
Ready to improve their IT department’s use of time and resources.
Dependent on commercial-grade Internet or LTE connections for some of their branches (i.e., those in rural areas).
At increased risk for a network security breach.
Using cloud-based apps with sensitive information, including CRMs and email service platforms.
Working to increase their employee’s mobility.
Centralizing their IT department’s critical functions.
Using several cloud storage services, including (but not limited to) OneDrive, Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, and on-premise hard drives.

The VOX SD WAN Ecosystem

Top Providers for Optimal Performance

Top Providers for Optimal Performance

Cisco SD WAN

Cisco SD WAN Powered by Viptela

Cisco is among the most trusted names in information technology. Having always stayed ahead of the curve, they developed a product called IWAN (Intelligent WAN), but it lacked cloud control and management, crucial pieces of any SD WAN solution.

Fortunately, it found synergy with Viptela, an SD WAN creator at the leading edge of the software defined technology. Cisco purchased the company in 2017. Together, they developed Viptela as its prime SD WAN solution for large enterprises with multiple campuses and sophisticated systems.

Not only had Viptela created a product that fits well with Cisco’s already full line of networking and security products, but it had a team that integrated seamlessly with Cisco’s culture. Innovation continues on the product with much of Viptela’s original team on board.

Viptela provides everything enterprise-level corporations need to create a customizable SD WAN and cloud-based environment. Viptela is robust, built for “any user, any application, anywhere in the world,” all managed simply and effectively through its vManage Console.

For complex environments requiring extensive customization, consider Viptela by Cisco.

Cisco SD WAN
Meraki Sd WAN

Cisco Meraki

Meraki SD WAN, which Cisco dubs “Comprehensive Security in a Single Box,” is for small to mid-sized companies with more than one branch but straightforward needs. Meraki is the easy-button of SD WAN.

A user armed with a Meraki Security Appliance can set up a secure branch in minutes. Plug it in, then configure your network using the Meraki dashboard app. It’s that simple. And thanks to a partnership with Apple, companies that use several iOS devices can use many latency-sensitive apps at once without difficulty.

Its ease of use means it is not as flexible for large-scale operations the way Viptela is. But Meraki is intuitive, low-maintenance, and secure. Its Auto-VPN continually changes its encryption, keeping cloud-stored data safe without constant monitoring or tweaking by an IT administrator.   

For corporations with a small IT staff and more than one location, consider the simplicity of Meraki by Cisco.

Aruba SD WAN

HPE Aruba SD-Branch

Since it was founded in 2002, Aruba has focused on straightforward but customizable branch networking solutions—SD WAN is in its DNA.

Though Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) acquired the company in 2015, CEO Dominic Orr said the company maintained control of its product (and its reputation) while incorporating HPE’s networking technology. And Aruba has continued to perform for customers, winning CRN’s 2018 Tech Innovator Award.

Aruba SD-Branch is simple but scalable, a product for companies that don’t need all of Viptela’s flexibility but are too big for Meraki’s plug-and-play solutions.

The Aruba 7000-series “branch gateways” are an all-in-one SDN product, allowing branches to operate SD-WAN, LAN, and WLAN from a single application. It can handle the ”skyrocketing number of devices” needing to connect to a given network, including mobile devices and the IoT (Internet of Things), across the entire reach of the enterprise.

For mid to large companies expecting to scale up quickly, consider Aruba SD-Branch.

Is SD WAN Right for Your Business?

Is SD WAN Right for Your Business?

No SD WAN solution is a one-size-fits-all proposition. Executives and IT professionals, already overloaded with information and responsibility, need a consultative expert who will get to know their needs, guide them through their options, and help them make the right choice.

That’s where VOX makes a difference.

VOX Lifecycle is our proprietary, consultative framework designed to assist and enable our clients to make informed decisions to achieve their desired business outcomes. We know these systems inside and out and will help you select the right one for your business.

Business Strategy Analysis

Through our proprietary Lifecycle methodology, our team of experts will discover and document your business strategies, objectives and KPIs and how these align with your key business units and their core processes. This robust engagement yields enlightening results and creates holistic clarity to shed light on the business imperatives that are critical to your organizational success.


Business Technology Assessment:  SD WAN

The SDx Assessment is ideal for customers who are planning to move their traditional networking and storage systems to more agile, cloud-based, software-defined systems. Our team of experts provides a thorough, consultative examination and analysis of your readiness for the migration to a new solution. The Assessment facilitates effective planning and deployment of a Unified Collaboration solution from end to end.


Technology Adoption Assessment

Get more value from your existing technology investments and achieve your desired business outcomes. This assessment measures the adoption of in-house technologies by analyzing software versions, application and software usage, feature utilization and training programs and more.

Get to know…


“Make informed decisions to achieve your desired business outcomes.”
A Consultative Approach
High-Touch Partnership
Prescriptive Methodology
Robust Customer Success Plan
Process, Tech & Risk Assessments

If you’re ready to reduce your costs, increase your agility, and improve your operations with an SD WAN solution, get in touch with VOX network solutions today.

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