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What is Software-Defined WAN?

Enterprise WANs are expensive and complex to manage. SD-WAN architectures can help by automating the configuration and management of WAN edge devices. It simplifies the overall network, reduces the number and complexity of branch devices and gives you the freedom to choose who provides your bandwidth. In addition to the above benefits, SD-WAN introduces a level of intelligence into the network with application routing.

You’re On a Road Trip…


Imagine having visibility of the road conditions for the entirety of your journey—you can “see” red lights, stop signs, congestion, accidents. Imagine having this information and being able to use it to dynamically change your route and optimize the path you take to get to your destination.

Now imagine every journey, whether it be by plane, train or automobile, has this same ability. The method you choose to get to your destination no longer matters, the most important thing is to get there as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

This is the essence of SD-WAN where there is a level of intelligence and automation within the solution, which routes applications at a layer above the traditional routing table. The performance of the underlying network, from the application’s perspective is now taken into account and the best path at a given moment is dynamically chosen to transport your application.

What Defines a Solution as SD-WAN 

Gartner defines four pillars that a solution must satisfy in order to be considered as SD-WAN:*

  1. Must support multiple connection types
  2. Can do dynamic path selection
  3. Provides a simple interface for managing WAN
  4. Must support VPNs

To better understand these pillars, here’s a brief breakdown:

  1. Must support multiple connection types
    The underlying network infrastructure is now abstracted, it no longer matters whether you connect to your head office or data centre over MPLS circuits, Internet, 4G, LTE, etc. SD-WAN is an overlay technology.
  2. Can do dynamic path selection
    The solution is application-aware and can select the best path for that particular application at a given time based upon user-defined criteria.
  3. Provides a simple interface for managing WAN
    The provisioning of the SD-WAN must be as simple as possible, be repeatable and scalable. No need for a deep understanding of the complexity of a vendor’s underlying CLI semantics.
  4. Must support VPNs
    The solution must have the ability to protect application data through the use of encryption.

How Does LiveAction Fit Into SD-WAN?


Due to its application awareness and advanced flow visualization techniques, LiveNX is ideally positioned to be the go to SD-WAN monitoring solution. Our application alerts upon and visualizes path changes both in real-time and historically. So, we can go back in time and visualize and report on the behavior of specific applications or application groups.

The screenshots below demonstrate these capabilities. In these examples, we can visualize two separate transports, MPLS and Internet.

In a steady state, operation Voice and Video Traffic should take the MPLS transport, this can clearly be seen below:

In the event of some application performance issues like delay, jitter, loss or a  combination of these on the primary link, the SD-WAN solution dynamically re-routes the Voice and Video traffic across the internet link:

LiveNX simply and elegantly visualizes the application traffic flows across the network, independent of the transport used.

The Future of SD-WAN


It is estimated that by 2020, around 30% of enterprises will adopt SD-WAN technology.** Given this rapid adoption of the technology, the market will evolve to offer additional services to complement the basic components. These include WAN optimization and security features leading to the Network as a Service (NaaS).

Ultimately, we will move towards Software-Defined Everything (SDX). We will transition from systems running on proprietary hardware, towards a position, whereby software can be run as an application on commodity off-the-shelf hardware.





November 29, 2016

Author: Rob Lonie