Software-defined wide-area network, also known as SD-WAN, is an implementation of software-defined networking (SDN) technology applied on WAN. This can include WAN connections such as broadband Internet, MPLS, and 4G. One of the most common reasons large businesses use SD-WAN is that it helps them connect their branch offices to centralized datacenters located over large geographical distances. While being very helpful to enterprises in a variety of ways, SD-WAN initially lacked several features such as application-aware routing, integrated firewalls, analytics tools, and more.
However, with the growing need, vendors started to pack in several useful features in their SD-WAN products. However, not every user is aware of these new SD-WAN features. There might be several reasons for this such as simply a lack of knowledge sharing, organizational silos, or more. However, enterprises should consider using SD-WANs to its full potential to get the most out of the technology. Here are essential yet very rarely used or underused features of SD-WAN.
In any enterprise, there are usually multiple departments or divisions. Although all these subdivisions work under one parent company, often the traffic of these departments needs to be isolated for business, security, or compliance reasons. For instance, the inventory and the support department might be having a different set of user traffic.
To manage situations like these, some organizations purchase new physical devices. However, almost all of the latest SD-WAN allows multiple virtual routing and forwarding (VRF). Also, all VPN links can be multiplexed using a single overlay. SD-WAN is capable of creating as many as 16 virtual VPNs and all of these can be up and running on the same WAN links.
Encryption key rotation
For companies that deal with confidential information or confidential data often need to follow proper network security measures. Changing the encryption key at regular intervals is one of the primary security measures. However, changing the encryption keys at an organizational level can be a very tedious and time-consuming process. Moreover, network changes also involve downtime, which could affect the bottom line and reputation of the companies.
Thankfully, SD-WANs can replace this conventional approach of changing the encryption keys. It offers an automated system that can rotate the VPN keys on specified intervals as frequently as every minute. It offers a programmatic solution that can be configured according to the company’s needs.
SD-WAN also provides users with simplified administration and troubleshooting options. But many organizations don’t use (or even know about) these SD-WAN features and just stick to default error tracking or troubleshooting options. Very few companies deploy APIs to make their work easier.
APIs serve a variety of purposes for enterprises. From sending or receiving data to integrate various services to the existing systems, APIs perform a variety of tasks. They also possess the power to automate the functionalities involved in a typical life cycle of SD-WAN.
The same APIs can also help organizations set up the SD-WAN infrastructure. Tasks such as data collection for troubleshooting network issues, log management, or even defect tracing can be done by configuring APIs to SD-WANs.
Better and stronger analytics
Analytics serves a variety of purposes for every organization. SD-WAN systems also pack in the ability to use powerful data analytics to troubleshoot network-related issues. These analytics can also be used to predict possible future vulnerabilities and attacks. It also suggests capacity planning you can set up and distributes network resources across the organizational network.
Flexible bandwidth allocation
Most SD-WANs offer flexible bandwidth allocation to assign different bandwidth to different types of applications. Unfortunately, many companies still go through the tedious manual task of configuring bandwidth for each application. This process is both time-consuming as well as resource-consuming.
Most of the latest SD-WAN solutions allow its clients to categorize the applications in different categories. This means organizations need to first categorize the applications in various groups and then allocate a specified bandwidth per category. This also makes sure all applications are given the required bandwidth as per the need.
Traditionally, large organizations having multiple branch offices located across different geographical locations configure their networking gear manually. This requires companies to get the network equipment to a common ground or a staging area, configure it according to the company’s needs and requirements and ship it to the branch office.
This process is, again, time-consuming and tedious. However, most SD-WAN solutions these days offer zero-touch provisioning out-of-the-box. Once, a new device is brought, it does not need to be configured from scratch. Rather, all it needs is an active Internet connection with the network that is already configured with all the settings. SD-WAN will then automatically adapt itself per the predefined settings and network templates.
All these features are usually available out-of-the-box from most SD-WAN vendors out there. And apart from the regular features such as better prioritization, dynamic connection establishment, and minimal data or packet loss, organizations need to use all these SD-WAN features listed above or they won’t be getting everything out of the technology.
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