SD-WAN Technology in 2024: A Simple Guide

SD-WAN Technology in 2024: A Simple Guide

Categories: Networking|Published On: February 16, 2024|14.6 min read|
About the Author

Steven Yaw

A distinguished networking expert, adept in multi-vendor environments including Cisco and Huawei, with a focus on WLAN and network security.
SD-WAN Technology in 2024 A Simple Guide

SD-WAN in 2024

Understanding SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) is essential for IT professionals seeking streamlined networking operations. This technology enables cost-effective bandwidth management, enhanced application performance, and ease of scalability across your network’s locations. In this article, you’ll discover the mechanics of SD-WAN, how it compares to traditional networking solutions, and how implementation can drive business growth.

As one of the top it skills in 2024, this blog is a crucial read if you are looking to expand your networking skills in 2024.

Key Takeaways

  • SD-WAN technology facilitates centralized control, dynamic routing, and improved performance and flexibility in network management across geographically dispersed enterprise networks, offering significant cost savings and enhanced application traffic control.
  • SD-WAN transforms network management by providing robust analytics, automation, and simplified configuration, which allows for real-time adjustments to network conditions, optimizing traffic routing and security, and supporting the growing demand for cloud services.
  • Implementing SD-WAN offers strategic advantages including cost-effective internet connectivity, strengthened network security, and support for cloud-based applications, with zero-touch provisioning allowing for efficient large-scale deployments and managed SD-WAN services for additional expertise.
Decoding SD-WAN and Its Role in Modern Networking

Decoding SD-WAN and Its Role in Modern Networking

As a groundbreaking technology, SD-WAN employs sd wan software to administer and allocate network traffic proficiently over a wide area network (WAN). This innovative approach enables improved performance and flexibility in network management. It extends enterprise networks over large geographical distances, offering access to corporate applications, services, and resources.

The beauty of SD-WAN lies in its abstraction of hardware and transport characteristics which allows for more agile network management and rapid adaptation to changing needs. The centralized control function of SD-WAN simplifies network configuration and policy management, often through a single graphical user interface.

SD-WAN offers several benefits, including:

  • The ability to utilize multiple internet service providers (ISPs) based on location or cost, and even facilitate a different ISP for each site to prevent network disruption
  • The ability to utilize 4G or 5G links for enhanced network connectivity options
  • Support for the integration of cloud services by efficiently directing traffic to SaaS and IaaS providers, bypassing the need for traditional network hub-and-spoke configurations and optimizing network services.

The Evolution from Traditional WAN to SD-WAN

Conventional WAN architectures, dependent on tangible hardware and MPLS circuits, presented complex challenges when scaling became necessary, often leading to elevated operational costs. They often led to delays, poor application performance, high costs, and were not optimized for cloud infrastructure. Here is where SD-WAN came to the rescue, introducing centralized control and orchestration, facilitating real-time traffic management to meet the demands of applications.

The distinguishing feature of software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) is the move from hardware-based networking to a virtualized setting, wherein software governs network functions across diverse transport services. This centralized approach in SD-WAN reduces the need for manual intervention, thereby streamlining network administration and operations. Thus, the shift from traditional WAN to SD-WAN was driven by the need for more agile and cost-effective network management.

Core Components of SD-WAN Architecture

SD-WAN architecture comprises edge devices positioned at client sites, a centralized controller for directing traffic and enforcing policies, and an orchestrator for network management. The edge devices offer connectivity and enforce security at various locations such as branch offices and cloud infrastructures, routing traffic according to predetermined policies. The SD-WAN Controller plays a key role in centralizing the network control, aiding in the smart and dynamic routing of traffic, and safeguarding quality of service along with adherence to security policies.

Further, the SD-WAN Orchestrator acts as a comprehensive management interface for the SD-WAN ecosystem, centralizing the administration and configuration of the network. In essence, SD-WAN architecture separates its operations into four distinct planes:

  • Data
  • Control
  • Management
  • Orchestration

This separation helps streamline and simplify network functions. With automation capabilities and centralized control policies, SD-WAN simplifies network management, allowing dynamic responses to network conditions without manual intervention.

How SD-WAN Transforms Network Management

How SD-WAN Transforms Network Management

SD-WAN enables centralized network management, transforming the way networks are managed and operated. By allowing for rapid changes across multiple sites via web-based consoles, SD-WAN automates provisioning and orchestration of configurations. With SD-WAN’s automation capabilities, network managers can set up dynamic responses to network traffic conditions, such as rerouting applications to alleviate congestion.

Another significant advantage of SD-WAN is its robust analytics capabilities, which enable network health and performance monitoring to drive business agility. Some key features of SD-WAN analytics include:

  • Detailed reporting for application and WAN performance
  • Enhanced network visibility
  • Management decisions on application usage
  • Self-healing networks through AI
  • Dynamic path selection for critical traffic
  • Improved security through proactive behavior analysis

These analytics capabilities make SD-WAN a powerful tool for optimizing network performance and ensuring a secure and efficient network infrastructure.

Simplifying Complex Networks

SD-WAN utilizes a centralized control plane for routing traffic. This allows administrators to implement rules and policies across the entire network simultaneously. Centralized management capabilities in SD-WAN allow for changes to be applied across multiple sites simultaneously through the use of policy templates. This simplification of complex networks is a core advantage of implementing SD-WAN.

Additionally, with SD-WAN, networks benefit from:

  • The flexible use of multiple connection types such as MPLS and broadband internet
  • Dynamic traffic management that reallocates bandwidth in response to application demands
  • Zero-touch provisioning that simplifies network expansion by automating initial setup tasks
  • Monitoring capabilities that ensure critical traffic is prioritized and efficiently routed.

Enhancing Application Traffic Control

By dynamically selecting the best routes for application traffic, SD-WAN offers the following benefits:

  • Boosts overall network performance
  • Assures that applications deliver optimal results even amidst fluctuating network conditions
  • Centralizes the management of WAN connections
  • Provides application intelligence insights
  • Simplifies policy routing to maintain reliable network performance and user experience.

Moreover, SD-WAN offers the following benefits:

  • Uses sophisticated QoS features to prioritize critical applications
  • Balances traffic loads and enables manual adjustments to meet the evolving demands of the business
  • Boosts application connectivity and performance in cloud environments

The rise of cloud-based applications has been a driving force behind the adoption of SD-WAN.

Fun Fact 1!

The SD-WAN market was worth US$ 1289.4 million in 2022 and would increase to US$ 8416.6 million by 2031 with a (Compound Annual Growth Rate) CAGR of 30.2% during 2024 to 2031.

The Strategic Advantages of Deploying SD-WAN

The Strategic Advantages of Deploying SD-WAN

Deploying SD-WAN offers strategic advantages such as cost-effective internet connectivity, improved network performance, and strengthened network security posture. SD-WAN technology enables the use of multiple connectivity types, including public internet links, which enhances network adaptability and can lead to cost savings by reducing reliance on expensive leased lines. Businesses can benefit from improved network performance with SD-WAN’s dynamic path selection, steering traffic over the most efficient routes.

Moreover, SD-WAN offers the following benefits:

  • Reduces WAN expenses by supplementing or substituting costly MPLS connections with more economical broadband alternatives
  • Supports strategic integration with cloud services, enhancing network performance and security
  • Allows for easy modification of virtual connections based on changing business requirements, supporting continuous evolution and cloud adoption

Cost-Effective Internet Connectivity Solutions

SD-WAN dynamically routes traffic across various connection types including broadband internet which reduces dependency on expensive MPLS circuits. Broadband internet is utilized by SD-WAN for high-bandwidth applications to cut down on the need for costly MPLS circuits, thus achieving cost savings.

The use of lower-cost local internet access in SD-WAN enables organizations to economically scale their bandwidth as per evolving needs. Features like Zero Touch Provisioning in SD-WAN contribute to cost savings by simplifying and expediting the deployment of new locations.

Strengthening Network Security Posture

SD-WAN architecture includes the following security features:

  • Microsegmentation
  • Policy management based on user identity
  • Threat prevention
  • IPsec for encrypting data in transit
  • SSL/TLS decryption for inspecting encrypted traffic

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) integrates with SD-WAN to provide a unified security platform, enhancing the network security model through Zero Trust principles and comprehensive management.

Furthermore, SD-WAN’s integrated security aids in meeting regulatory compliance demands by implementing a broad array of security controls throughout the network. The security enhancement for IoT applications within SD-WAN is facilitated by the ability to microsegment IoT devices and manage their cross-traffic through integrated firewalls.

SD-WAN Versus Other Networking Technologies

SD-WAN Versus Other Networking Technologies

In comparison with other networking technologies like MPLS and VPNs, SD-WAN outperforms by offering more flexibility, cost savings, and seamless cloud service integration. MPLS uses specialized routers to send packets along predetermined network paths that can be costly and complex to set up, while SD-WAN can intelligently route traffic over multiple connection types without special hardware. While MPLS provides dedicated and reliable connections with quality of service (QoS) guarantees, SD-WAN offers no inherent bandwidth limits, flexibility, and cost savings by running over the regular Internet.

SD-WAN offers several advantages over traditional WANs, including:

  • Facilitating service provider-agnostic routing
  • Allowing for more flexible network changes
  • Seamless integration with cloud services
  • Adapting to changes in real-time environments
  • Managing traffic intelligently to avoid lossy connections

These factors make SD-WAN more agile and efficient compared to traditional WANs.

SD-WAN vs. MPLS: A Closer Look

When pitted against MPLS, SD-WAN shows its strength in flexibility and cost savings. SD-WAN has the capability to manage various connection types, such as MPLS, broadband, LTE, and others. It is also adaptable for applications hosted in different environments, such as data centers, public and private clouds, and SaaS services..

Additionally, Cisco SD-WAN offers the capability to direct traffic and failover between a range of connectivity options like broadband, private lines, and 5G, a level of flexibility not typically found with MPLS, which usually depends on dedicated private line connections.

The Shift from VPN to SD-WAN

The transition from virtual private networks to SD-WAN underscores the market’s inclination towards secure, efficient, and nimble WAN solutions that bolster remote access and cloud-based services. SD-WAN enhances connectivity and user experience over VPN by utilizing dynamic path selection, optimizing performance even in the presence of traffic spikes and latency issues.

SD-WAN offers several benefits, including:

  • Improved protection against web attacks and cyber threats
  • Built-in security features, such as a full edge security stack
  • Integration with cloud-delivered security services
  • Support for all types of network connectivity
  • Centralized management of wide-ranging corporate networks
Implementing SD-WAN for Business Growth

Implementing SD-WAN for Business Growth

The process of implementing SD-WAN for business expansion entails numerous steps, which include identifying the appropriate solution, assessing vendor support, and employing zero-touch provisioning for simplified deployment. When implementing SD-WAN, evaluating potential vendors based on aspects like security, price, availability of hybrid WAN solutions, and ease of deployment is crucial for business success.

Vendor support and maintenance services must be thoroughly assessed during the SD-WAN implementation phase, as they play a key role in ensuring uninterrupted and efficient operation. To ensure that the SD-WAN network is sized correctly to handle the organization’s current and future workloads, businesses must carefully assess their bandwidth requirements.

Also, managed service providers are critical in SD-WAN implementations as they enable businesses to benefit from managed SD-WAN services offered by vendors, providing expertise and additional support.

Selecting the Right SD-WAN Solution

Selecting the right SD-WAN solution requires compatibility assessment, scalability considerations, and alignment with business objectives and requirements. An SD-WAN solution should be compatible with the organization’s existing equipment such as switches, Wi-Fi controllers, and WAN optimization products to prevent compatibility issues and ensure a smooth operational transition.

Businesses must select an SD-WAN solution that can scale with the organization’s growth and look for a vendor with a clear roadmap for future enhancements to meet the changing needs of the business over time. The ease of configuration and management of the SD-WAN solution is crucial for IT teams to effectively respond to network changes and address issues promptly.

Ensuring that the SD-WAN solution supports applications vital to the business’s operations and selecting a service provider with an SLA that guarantees a specific level of service are critical steps in choosing the right SD-WAN vendor.

Zero Touch Provisioning: Streamlining SD-WAN Deployment

Zero-touch provisioning (ZTP) simplifies SD-WAN deployment by automating the initial setup tasks, limiting manual interference, and facilitating large-scale deployments with little effort. By harnessing ZTP, companies can:

  • Roll out SD-WAN initiatives across multiple branch locations without requiring extensive technical expertise on-site
  • Offer significant cost savings
  • Ensure consistency in configurations

Automated setup, swift time to operational status, reduced chance of human errors, easier updates, and cost-effectiveness are some of the primary advantages of ZTP for SD-WAN deployments. The ZTP process typically involves devices with built-in ZTP capabilities, a DHCP or TFTP server, and a file server to boot up network devices and download the required configuration files automatically.

However, while advantageous, ZTP can also introduce the risk of misconfigurations resulting in security vulnerabilities, highlighting the need for robust security measures against potential threats like man-in-the-middle attacks.

Fun Fact 2!

Market forecasts for SD-WAN market revenue from 2019 to 2026 align with this trend, projecting the global market to grow to $8,380.78 million USD by 2026.

Navigating the Global SD-WAN Market

Navigating the Global SD-WAN Market

Understanding the global SD-WAN market entails comprehension of key vendors, market tendencies, and the escalating importance of cloud-based applications and SD-WAN adoption. Key SD-WAN vendors such as Cisco, and VMware have established strategic partnerships with telecom operators around the world to expand their global reach. Competition in the SD-WAN market is rising, with various operators, hyperscale cloud providers, and vendors sometimes bypassing traditional telco networks.

Major players like Fortinet, Juniper Networks, Palo Alto Networks, Silver Peak, and Versa Networks offer unique SD-WAN solutions emphasizing security, simplicity, and scalability for network administrators.

SD-WAN technology is poised for future integrations with SASE architecture, hinting at a merging trend between networking efficiency and security, making sd wan work seamlessly in this new environment.

The Rise of Cloud-Based Applications and SD-WAN

The rise of cloud-based applications drives SD-WAN adoption, as it improves cloud connectivity, supports IoT devices, and ensures consistent application performance. SD-WAN improves cloud application performance by providing direct access to cloud services at remote branches, reducing latency, and enhancing the user experience.

SD-WAN offers a centralized traffic management feature that allows for prioritization of critical business applications, including IoT, ensuring high performance and efficient usage of low-cost connectivity alternatives in a data center. The centralized management of SD-WAN simplifies handling increased WAN demands from IoT devices, eliminating the necessity for IT personnel to manage wan traffic on-site.

Providing nonstop networking capabilities, SD-WAN ensures that IoT devices have failover options like wired broadband and 4G LTE to maintain continuous application performance, which is indispensable for business-critical IoT functions. Choosing an SD-WAN solution that supports multicloud environments is essential, as it requires an understanding of the distinct security profiles and traffic management needs of various cloud resources.

Forecasting the Future of SD-WAN Adoption

Predicting the course of SD-WAN adoption underscores the significance of agility, streamlined deployment, and adaptability to changes, such as mergers and acquisitions. Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) facilitates agility in SD-WAN deployment, enabling organizations to adapt efficiently to changes such as mergers and acquisitions. This highlights the importance of agility in the future of SD-WAN adoption.

Moreover, given the rising demand for efficient deployment and adaptability to changes, organizations are likely to continue adopting SD-WAN in the future. With its ability to streamline deployment, reduce manual intervention, and enable large-scale deployments with minimal effort, SD-WAN is poised to be a vital part of the future networking landscape.

Recommended SD-WAN Course

Recommended Course

Having gained an understanding of the pivotal role of SD-WAN in modern networking, it’s clear that mastering this technology is crucial for advancing your IT career and potentially boosting your salary. Whether you’re a manager or decision-maker planning to integrate SD-WAN into your organization’s daily operations, or an IT professional eager to deepen your expertise, the right training path is essential.

For beginners or team members with no prior knowledge in networking, it’s advisable to start with the CompTIA A+ & CompTIA Network+ certifications. These foundational courses cover essential IT and networking concepts, setting a solid groundwork for more advanced studies.

Once these fundamentals are in place, the next step is the CCNA Certification (Cisco Certified Network Associate) certification. This entry-level certification encompasses key skills such as configuring network components (switches, routers, wireless LAN controllers), managing network devices, identifying basic security threats, and an introduction to network programmability, automation, and software-defined networking. It lays the groundwork for advancing to Cisco’s professional-level certifications.

After acquiring the CCNA certification, the next focus should be specialized SD-WAN courses under the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Enterprise certification program.

Two essential courses for an in-depth understanding of SD-WAN are:

  1. SDWFND: Cisco SD-WAN Operation and Deployment v2.0 – This course offers an extensive overview of the Cisco SD-WAN solution and its components like vManage, vSmart, and vBond.You’ll learn how to deploy, manage, and operate a secure, programmable, and scalable SD-WAN fabric using Cisco’s IOS XE SD-WAN products.Key topics include configuring and monitoring overlay routing, understanding data and control policies, and deploying Quality of Service (QoS) and Direct Internet Access (DIA) in the SD-WAN network.
  2. ENSDWI: Implementing Cisco SD-WAN Solutions – This course delves into the best practices for configuring routing protocols in data centers and branches.You’ll learn to implement advanced control, data, and application-aware policies. The course covers various aspects of SD-WAN deployment and migration, controller placement, WAN Edge devices configuration, and Direct Internet Access (DIA) breakout strategies.It also explores Cisco SD-WAN security options including enterprise firewall, Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), URL filtering, Cisco Advanced Malware Protection (AMP), SSL/TLS proxy, and Cisco Umbrella® Secure Internet Gateway (SIG).

These courses along with the CCNP Security certification are designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively deploy, manage, and optimize SD-WAN solutions, paving the way for enhanced performance and growth in the networking field.


In conclusion, SD-WAN is a game-changing technology that transforms network management, offering cost-effective connectivity, robust security, and seamless integration with cloud services. Its dynamic traffic management and flexible connectivity options make it a superior choice over traditional WAN and other networking technologies. As businesses increasingly adopt cloud-based applications and IoT devices, the strategic advantages of deploying SD-WAN become even more apparent. With the global SD-WAN market poised for substantial growth and the increasing importance of agility and efficient deployment, the future of SD-WAN adoption looks promising indeed. The revolution in enterprise networking is here, and it’s powered by SD-WAN.cepts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is SD-WAN vs regular WAN?

SD-WAN differs from traditional WAN by utilizing multiple network links and creating a hybrid network, which increases resiliency across the system. In contrast, traditional WAN relies on a physical connection without the virtualized and abstracted elements of SD-WAN.

Is SD-WAN same as VPN?

No, SD-WAN and VPN serve different purposes. SD-WAN focuses on improving network performance across geographical distances, while VPNs prioritize encrypting internet connections for data confidentiality.

Why is SD-WAN better than MPLS?

SD-WAN is better than MPLS because it offers greater scalability, performance, and control, and does not incur bandwidth penalties. It also allows for easy upgrades without changes to the network infrastructure.

Is SDN and SD-WAN the same?

No, SDN and SD-WAN are not the same. SDN offers centralized network management, while SD-WAN provides centralized control and distributed management. This allows for greater visibility and control over the network.

What is SD-WAN and how does it work?

SD-WAN is a networking technology that extends enterprise networks over large geographical distances, offering access to corporate applications, services, and resources by distributing network traffic across a wide area network using software-defined networking concepts.

How can I learn SD-WAN technology and apply it on my daily work?

To learn SD-WAN technology and apply it in your daily work, it is recommended to find an authorized training service, such as Trainocate Malaysia, that can guide you on your networking and SD-WAN journey. Additionally, obtaining certifications, such as those offered by Cisco or CompTIA related to networking, is important. These certifications serve as a testament to your expertise in this area.

About the Author

Steven Yaw

A distinguished networking expert, adept in multi-vendor environments including Cisco and Huawei, with a focus on WLAN and network security.