What is SD-WAN Software?
SD-WAN Software Defined
A Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) uses software-defined networking principles to distribute network traffic across a Wide Area Network (WAN) with greater efficiency and lower cost.
SD-WAN software solves the challenges of managing wide area networks in a business environment dominated by cloud computing and hybrid workforces. Traditional WANs connect users at remote sites to applications within an organization’s data center using Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) circuits that are expensive to use and time-consuming to manage. As IT networks have evolved and users need to connect to cloud applications and IT assets that may be anywhere in the world, backhauling traffic through a central data center over traditional WAN circuits adds too much latency and degrades performance.
To improve connections and reduce costs, SD-WAN products create a virtual overlay that abstracts the underlying connections and allows organizations to add cheaper, commodity connections to their wide area networks. SD-WAN software also centralizes network control and automatically routes traffic over the fastest and most cost-efficient path.
How SD-WAN Software Works
Organizations today need a better way to send traffic directly and securely over the internet from branch locations to SaaS-based applications and cloud resources. Traditional WAN architecture usually requires all traffic – including traffic headed to the cloud – to be backhauled from branch offices to a central data center for security inspection. The delays caused by this process result in poor user experiences and lower productivity.
By abstracting the details of the networking layer, SD-WAN software allows organizations to interchangeably use additional, less expensive connection types to increase bandwidth, improve redundancy, enhance performance and enable centralized orchestration.
SD-WAN software connects a network of SD-WAN appliances at various sites using encrypted tunnels. Administrators can manage all appliances centrally, enforcing consistent networking and security policies across the organization. Automation and application-aware routing enable an SD-WAN service to optimally send traffic across the fastest and most cost-effective path, handling different kinds of traffic and conditions in real time and adapting quickly to changing situations.
SD-WAN and Security
While SD-WAN software offers significant advantages in performance and productivity, it also introduces some security challenges. In SD-WAN architecture, traffic flows directly from branch locations to cloud services across the public internet without the benefit of inspection by traditional, perimeter-based security solutions. The decentralized nature of the modern workforce can make it more difficult to consistently enforce policies across the network, since different locations have variable needs and capabilities. Additionally, traditional firewalls and security solutions often lack the performance required to secure SD-WAN software against sophisticated attacks.
To address these security concerns, IT teams can deploy several levels of security technology. Choosing SD-WAN software that contains Next-generation Firewall (NGFW) technology will improve intrusion prevention and anti-malware defenses while also centralizing firewall management. Secure Web Gateways (SWGs) add capabilities for URL filtering and application control that prevent employees from accessing malicious sites, downloading files containing malware or purposely or inadvertently leaking sensitive information.
A Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) provides an additional layer of security for traffic moving to and from cloud applications. Together, these multiple layers of security at the edge can replace or even improve the security functions of traditional solutions that inspect and filter traffic within a centralized data center.
How to Choose the Right SD-WAN Software
IT teams should consider these criteria when considering SD-WAN vendors.
- Integrated IPS and NGFW features. Choosing software with built-in security systems will help to reduce costs and minimize risk.
- No external routers. By eliminating the traditional hardware routers in a WAN architecture, IT teams can avoid the cost and inconvenience of manually configuring and maintaining these legacy technologies. Choosing a solution that incorporates multi-link technology allows teams to combine multiple links for better performance and greater resiliency.
- Exceptional SD-WAN features. Superior SD-WAN software should include standard features like link aggregation, link load-balancing, application routing and QoS as well as one dashboard to manage the SD-WAN network and a separate dashboard for managing the security features of the NGFW. An ideal SD-WAN solution will allow you to mix and match hardware and software for clusters, support clustering up to at least four nodes, and offer a “hot swap” feature that eliminates the need for an external load balancer.
- Sufficient user context from endpoints. Because data collected from endpoints can help proactively manage incidents, the best SD-WAN software will provide endpoint data that can be analyzed to profile and map user behavior and take appropriate preventive actions.
SD-WAN Solutions from Forcepoint
As a leading data security and SD-WAN provider, Forcepoint offers a leading SD-WAN software solution in FlexEdge Secure SD-WAN. With this Forcepoint technology, organizations can easily connect users to any application, optimize performance and reduce costs with a SASE architecture that is centrally managed from a unified console. FlexEdge Secure SD-WAN improves application performance with Multi-Link connectivity and minimizes risk with built-in advanced security functionality, all delivered through data-first SASE.
With Forcepoint FlexEdge Secure SD-WAN, organizations can:
- Improve security. Protect users and reduce threats with built-in functionality that includes multi-layer inspection, DNS sinkholing, intrusion prevention and other technologies.
- Reduce cost. Cut networking and SD-WAN costs and improve reliability with real-time mixing and matching of local ISP broadband and private MPLS connections.
- Scale easily. Connect branches, offices and remote sites to the cloud. Configure network and security policies once and enforce them everywhere from the SD-WAN Management Center.
- Optimize application usage. Ensure that business-critical applications have the required bandwidth. Reduce latency and jitter with Multi-Link connectivity, application health monitoring and traffic steering.
- Support SASE architecture. Modernize your network infrastructure and improve security by pairing SD-WAN software with Forcepoint ONE, a cloud-native, all-in-one security platform.