What is a software-defined WAN?

In today’s business landscape, organizations are increasingly reliant on cloud applications and services to drive growth, collaboration, and innovation. Experts predict businesses will spend nearly $200 billion on software as a service (SaaS) solutions alone in 2023.[1] But despite their growing popularity, cloud technologies create new challenges for network management.

Traditional WANs simply weren’t designed to handle the traffic patterns, security requirements, and performance demands of modern cloud-based applications. They use expensive hardware devices such as routers, switches, and firewalls to connect branch locations to the central data center, which can be challenging to manage for large companies.

So it likely comes as no surprise that more business leaders are switching to software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) solutions to overcome these new networking difficulties. With the global SD-WAN market expected to reach $8.4 billion by 2025,[2] finding a solution that meets your company’s needs now can help you stay ahead of the competition.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about SD-WAN and how this network connectivity solution can benefit your business.

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN technology allows businesses to build a WAN using software-based network virtualization techniques.

The idea behind SD-WAN is to create a software layer that abstracts the underlying network infrastructure. This enables an SD-WAN controller to dynamically manage network traffic based on policies and priorities.

How Does SD-WAN Work?

SD-WAN deployment involves setting up network-connected devices throughout an organization’s branch offices and data centers. The devices establish secure connections with each other and the SD-WAN controller, which dynamically routes traffic over the most optimal network path.

A few ways SD-WAN differs from traditional WANs include:

Secure Connectivity

SD-WAN devices provide end-to-end encryption and advanced security features like firewalls, intrusion detection, and content filtering to protect against cyber attacks. Traditional WAN solutions require network administrators to add security devices at each location for protection.

Application Optimization

SD-WAN uses real-time traffic analysis and algorithms to route WAN traffic over network paths based on pre-defined policies. Traditional WAN architecture typically relies on static routing protocols and manually configured network devices.

Carrier-Independent WAN

SD-WAN architecture can connect to the corporate network via links from multiple carriers, including broadband internet, LTE, and MPLS. Traditional WAN relies on dedicated hardware devices and carriers to connect multiple locations.

Centralized Management

SD-WAN appliances offer centralized management, simplifying network administration and reducing the risk of human error. Traditional WAN connectivity requires a more complex and distributed management model.

How Does SD-WAN Solve Modern IT Network Challenges?

Modern businesses face several IT network challenges, including:

Network Performance

Today’s businesses require reliable, high-performing networks to support critical applications and services.

Cyber Security Threats

Cyber security attacks are becoming more sophisticated, and businesses need to protect their networks and sensitive data from a wide range of threats.

Remote and Hybrid Workforces

With the increased popularity of remote and hybrid work environments, businesses must ensure their networks can support fast, secure remote access to corporate resources.

Cloud Connectivity

Businesses are increasingly dependent on cloud applications and SaaS services. For optimal performance, networks must support direct connectivity to these services with low latency.

Network Complexity

Increased Data

Businesses need to ensure their network functions well with the increasing volume of traffic, provide efficient storage, and quickly restore lost data.

How SD-WAN Solves These Challenges

As networks become more complex, businesses need to manage them efficiently and cost-effectively while reducing the risk of downtime.

SD-WAN architecture is built to reduce latency, packet loss, and jitter, so companies can experience better network performance overall. And because these tools provide automatic failover and redundancy, they help to reroute application traffic to backup links in case of outages or disruptions.

Ultimately, SD-WAN technology addresses these network challenges by giving businesses more flexibility, agility, and control over their wide area network.


What Are the Benefits of SD-WAN?

SD-WAN solutions simplify network management while offering businesses a wide range of benefits. Some of the biggest SD-WAN benefits include:

Improved Performance

Because SD-WAN uses real-time traffic analysis and dynamic routing algorithms, it can send network traffic over the best connection at any given time. This results in improved application performance, less latency, and a better overall user experience.

Lower Costs

Since SD-WANs can send traffic over multiple connection types, businesses can save money by leveraging lower-cost network links with more expensive options. For example, low-priority activity like internet browsing can be routed over broadband internet, while bandwidth-intensive activities like video conferencing can be routed over MPLS.

Advanced Security

SD-WAN offers built-in security features, such as end-to-end encryption and firewalls. These tools provide better protection against cyber threats, which is particularly important for public cloud services.

Secure SD-WAN software, which combines the benefits of SD-WAN technology with advanced security features, typically includes:

  • Encrypted Traffic – Secure SD-WAN uses encryption to protect data transfers between multiple locations and prevent interception.
  • Firewall – Secure SD-WAN includes firewalls to protect against unauthorized network and data access.
  • Intrusion Detection and Prevention – Secure SD-WAN includes intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) to monitor for and prevent unauthorized access, malware, and other cyber threats.
  • Secure Web Gateway – Secure SD-WAN includes a secure web gateway (SWG) to filter web traffic and prevent users from accessing harmful websites.
  • Anti-virus and Anti-malware – Secure SD-WAN includes anti-virus and anti-malware tools to protect against viruses, ransomware, and other types of malware.
  • Network Segmentation – Secure SD-WAN uses network segmentation to isolate different parts of the network, preventing lateral attacks in the event of a breach.

Increased Agility

SD-WAN allows for faster deployment of new locations, applications, and services, so businesses can more quickly respond to the changing market or meet new customer demands. And because it’s a cloud-based service, SD-WAN easily scales up and down as needed to grow alongside the business.

Better Cloud Connectivity

SD-WAN reduces latency and improves performance by directly connecting to cloud applications and services. This allows traffic to bypass the traditional backhaul to a data center, often resulting in slower connectivity during peak usage times.

What Are SD-WAN Use Cases?

Businesses can use SD-WAN in various scenarios to address different needs and challenges. Here are some of the most common SD-WAN use cases:

Branch Offices

SD-WAN can be used to securely connect remote branch offices to a central network. This can help to provide a consistent user experience and WAN optimization.

Cloud Applications

Organizations can use SD-WAN to connect directly to cloud-based services, improving app performance, reducing latency, and eliminating traffic backhauls.

Data Centers

SD-WAN can connect multiple data center sites and provide secure WAN connectivity between them. This can help to provide a more resilient network and improve disaster recovery.

Remote Workers

Businesses can use SD-WAN to provide secure connectivity for hybrid and remote workers, enabling them to access the corporate network from any location. This can improve productivity and reduce security risks associated with remote access.

How Does SD-WAN Compare to Other Networking Solutions?

SD-WAN offers several advantages over other networking solutions, such as software-defined networking (SDN), multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), or virtual private networks (VPN). Below, we’ll explore how SD-WANs differ from other popular networking solutions.


SD-WAN and SDN both use software to manage WAN infrastructure. However, there are some key differences between the two:

  • Scope – SDN is a broad term that refers to using software to manage network infrastructure, including both local area networks and wide area networks. SD-WAN is a specific use case of software-defined networking focused on WAN optimization.
  • Functionality – While both SDN and SD-WAN use software to manage networks, their specific functionalities differ. SDN typically involves a centralized controller that manages and controls traffic, while SD-WAN focuses on optimizing traffic routes over the network.
  • Deployment – SDN is typically used in large, centralized data center environments, while SD-WAN is more commonly used by businesses with distributed branch offices that need to connect to a centralized network.
  • Benefits – SDN and SD-WAN both offer improved network flexibility, management, and security. However, the specific benefits offered by each vary depending on the solution.


SD-WAN and MPLS are used to connect a business’s remote branch offices or data center facilities to a centralized network. Some of the key differences between these networking technologies include:

  • Cost – MPLS is typically more expensive than SD-WAN solutions because businesses must install dedicated physical circuits between data centers and each branch office. SD-WAN uses a mix of public and private networks to connect sites, which can significantly reduce costs.
  • Flexibility – SD-WAN is more flexible than MPLS because it allows organizations to easily add or remove sites as needed without any infrastructure changes. MPLS often requires changing the physical infrastructure to add new sites to the network.
  • Bandwidth – MPLS usually offers more predictable and reliable bandwidth than SD-WAN. However, SD-WAN can aggregate multiple connections to provide high-speed connectivity to remote sites, making it an extremely reliable option.
  • Management – SD-WAN offers centralized management and visibility, which can be easier for IT staff to manage than the complex management of MPLS networks.


SD-WAN and VPN both allow organizations to securely connect users or branch offices to a central network. Differences between these solutions include:

  • Functionality – SD-WAN infrastructure is designed to optimize the routing and management of traffic over a WAN. In contrast, VPN is designed to provide secure remote access to network functions over the internet.
  • Performance – SD-WAN can prioritize application traffic, improving performance and reducing latency. VPN typically suffers from application performance issues due to the public internet’s limitations.
  • Security – SD-WANs and VPNs provide secure connections but use different methods. VPNs typically use encryption to secure traffic between remote users and the central network, while SD-WAN may use additional security services such as firewalls.
  • Deployment – VPN is often easier to deploy than SD-WAN, as IT teams can set it up on individual devices. SD-WAN requires more infrastructure and network configuration, but it is still easy to deploy and configure.

How Can Businesses Deploy SD-WAN?

Deploying SD-WAN software company-wide involves several steps. Here is an overview of the steps many businesses take when setting up SD-WAN, but remember that the process might vary depending on your organization’s specific needs.


The first step in deploying SD-WAN is to identify your needs and goals for the network. This may include improving performance, reducing costs, or increasing security. You should also evaluate your company’s current network infrastructure and identify any limitations.


Once you’ve completed the planning phase, the next step is to design your SD-WAN solution. This involves determining the number and location of SD-WAN devices, the connectivity options you’ll use, and the required security functions.


After the design phase, it’s time to implement your SD-WAN solution. This typically involves installing and configuring SD-WAN devices, setting up connectivity options, and configuring network policies and security settings.


Once you’ve set up your SD-WAN, thoroughly test it to ensure the solution meets your business’s needs. This can involve testing performance, security, and reliability.

Ongoing Management

Every SD-WAN solution requires ongoing management and maintenance. This includes monitoring performance, changing network policies, and upgrading hardware and software as needed.

Optimize Your Networking Technology With Momentum

If you’re ready to experience SD-WAN for your business, Momentum can help. Our award-winning Navigator SD-WAN solution helps organizations overcome modern WAN challenges, boost bandwidth, increase agility, and more.

Powered by Juniper Networks, Navigator SD-WAN offers several unique advantages over other solutions, including:

  • Scalable hardware that enables high-speed networking, out-of-band LTE management, and full visibility.
  • The ability to connect failover sites across multiple networks and cut bandwidth costs in half with Juniper’s proprietary secure vector routing.
  • Security features designed to help you build a powerful zero-trust network access (ZTNA) solution for your organization.
  • Streamlined operations, easy monitoring and reporting, and automated troubleshooting to free up your team’s resources.

Navigator SD-WAN can help you take your business to the next level with a more versatile and innovative networking solution. Contact the Momentum team today to learn more or get started.


  1. https://explodingtopics.com/blog/cloud-computing-stats#top-cloud-computing-stats
  2. https://webinarcare.com/best-sd-wan-software/sd-wan-statistics/
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