What is a SD-WAN Appliance?
SD-WAN Appliances Defined
Software-defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) is a networking solution that enables an organization to improve the performance and reliability of a Wide Area Network (WAN). Leveraging the principles of software-defined networking, SD-WAN solutions incorporate multiple transport services and intelligently route traffic across the best connections based on real-time awareness of network conditions and the needs of applications. As a result, organizations can deliver better experiences for a highly distributed workforce. Employees working outside the office need fast and secure access to cloud services, SaaS applications and corporate IT assets, often on their personal devices.
SD-WAN appliances are physical or virtual controllers located on-premises or in the cloud that connect an organization’s users to applications, services and workloads. An SD-WAN appliance manages connections to network services including MPLS, broadband and LTE, analyzing WAN connections to route traffic along the most efficient path. These appliances may also help to enforce SD-WAN security policies.
How Do SD-WAN Appliances Work?
SD-WAN appliances and products are designed to overcome the challenges of ensuring fast and secure connectivity for branch locations and hybrid workforces. The traditional wide area network uses a hub-and-spoke model that requires all traffic to flow through a central data center. For organizations with a highly distributed workforce, this model adds unacceptable levels of latency that negatively affect user experiences and productivity. Additionally, legacy WANs are built with costly MPLS connections that are time-consuming to manage and deploy, preventing organizations from scaling easily and cost-efficiently.
SD-WAN overcomes these issues by creating a virtual overlay for the network that abstracts network connections and enables the use of additional, low-cost transport services that add redundancy and flexibility. SD-WAN technology enables organizations to abandon the hub-and-spoke model, creating direct-to-cloud connections that improve the performance of cloud apps and provide users with better experiences. Centralized orchestration of configuration and policies helps to streamline network administration.
SD-WAN appliances are responsible for analyzing available WAN connections and determining the best route for traffic based on established policies. SD-WAN appliances continuously monitor the performance of each WAN connection and adjust traffic routes as needed. For example, traffic for mission-critical applications may be routed over dedicated leased lines while less important traffic may be directed to public internet connections. Metrics for Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE) help determine the best path at any given moment. SD-WAN appliances may also enforce encryption or apply other security techniques to protect traffic.
The Benefits of SD-WAN
SD-WAN may be deployed by organizations as physical or virtual appliances on-premises or in the cloud. Organizations may also deploy SD-WAN as a managed services offering or as a SaaS-based solution. Regardless of the deployment option, SD-WAN products and services offer significant benefits to organizations and their IT teams.
- Better application performance. SD-WAN appliances continuously optimize WAN performance and dynamically route traffic to accommodate the needs of each application, ensuring that business-critical, bandwidth-hungry applications have the resources they need to ensure exceptional performance and high-quality user experiences.
- Greater redundancy. With multiple paths and automatic failover, SD-WAN improves redundancy and redirects traffic around bottlenecks and poorly performing WAN connections.
- Lower costs. SD-WAN systems allow organizations to use any combination of transport services, including lower-cost options such as broadband, fiber and LTE in addition to MPLS circuitImproved visibility. With SD-WAN appliances, IT teams have a much better understanding of the topology and activity in highly complex networks.
- Easier management. With automatic routing and zero-touch provisioning, SD-WAN appliances eliminate much of the complexity of managing a WAN. Centralized management and automation help avoid errors like misconfiguration that can expose the network to security threats.
The Challenges of SD-WAN Security
SD-WAN appliances typically include encryption technology to keep traffic private as it moves between remote sites and the cloud. While this technology offers some privacy, it doesn’t offer strong protection against intruders, malware, malicious downloads or unauthorized access to cloud applications. To secure SD-WAN appliances, IT teams should adopt a multilayered approach to SD-WAN security.
- Network security. Next-generation Firewalls (NGFWs) offer anti-malware defenses and advanced intrusion prevention to enhance network security. While many SD-WAN solutions use a separate firewall deployed at each location, superior solutions combine SD-WAN appliances with full next-generation firewall security in a single solution or replace on-premises appliances with a cloud-based firewall as a service (FWaaS) offering.
- Cloud access security. As users increasingly rely on cloud applications, the newest generation of Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASBs) enforce data protection policies and monitor cloud activity. A CASB may be deployed as an appliance or as a cloud-based service.
- Web security. Secure Web Gateways (SWGs) perform various security functions, including detecting malware, blocking malicious downloads, preventing users from accessing suspicious or unsanctioned websites and stopping malicious or inadvertent data leaks.
SD-WAN Appliances from Forcepoint
As a leading SD-WAN company, Forcepoint provides a powerful SD-WAN software solution in FlexEdge Secure SD-WAN. This Forcepoint offering may be deployed with physical, virtual or cloud-based SD-WAN appliances, enabling distributed organizations to improve application performance, simplify network management, heighten security and ensure that users can safely access any application from anywhere.
Designed from the ground up for high availability and scalability, Forcepoint FlexEdge Secure SD-WAN offers centralized management with complete visibility into network traffic.
With Forcepoint SD-WAN appliances, organizations can:
- Keep pace with changing security requirements. Forcepoint uniquely customizes access control and deep inspection to each connection, ensuring high performance and security. Forcepoint SD-WAN appliances offer an efficient, extensible and highly scalable design that combines granular application control, built-in Virtual Private Network (VPN) control, intrusion prevention system (IPS) defenses and mission-critical application proxies.
- Stop sophisticated attacks. FlexEdge Secure SD-WAN automatically allows or blocks network traffic originating from specific applications based on highly granular endpoint contextual data. Going beyond the typical network security parameters, Forcepoint SD-WAN appliances prevent attempted exfiltration of sensitive data from endpoints via unauthorized programs, users, web applications and communication channels.
- Scale easily. Organizations can activate branches, offices and remote sites from the cloud. Administrators can configure connections once and apply policies everywhere through the SD-WAN Management Center.
- Reduce costs. Real-time mixing and matching of local ISP broadband and private MPLS connections help slash networking costs while improving reliability.
- Optimize applications. To reduce latency and jitter, Forcepoint uses MultiLink™ connectivity, traffic steering, application health monitoring and other features to ensure that mission-critical applications receive the necessary bandwidth.