Without any doubt, SD-WAN has been one of the most dynamic technological innovations in the networking ecosystem. The software-defined networking architecture enables IT management with end-to-end visibility to monitor and control all the sites, which is also the reason why SD-WAN has rapidly replaced legacy router-based WAN architecture in recent years. SD-WAN helps businesses address the challenges in connectivity, agility and service availability for their global or remote branches.

For the past couple years, SD-WAN has been successfully adopted in some vertical markets due to its technological and economical benefits.

SD-WAN in Retail

Retail is a particular sector where SD-WAN can contribute their growth. Retail relies on expanding their branches to drive company growth, yet they have are highly cost-driven. In the past, whenever they open a new branch, they have to invest in a number of routers and legacy, dedicated equipments to establish the connectivity with the headquarters, other branches and confidential payment identity information. If any networking issue arises, they have to hire a professional technician to solve the problem. In fact, some of the branches are in remote areas without sufficient radio network infrastructures. All these present challenges in the cost-effectiveness for the already cost-driven retail businesses.

To address the connectivity and economic burdens, there has been a great number of large global retail chain groups adopting SD-WAN as the new WAN optimization architecture. SD-WAN abstracts a software pane to centrally manage all the branch networks. In addition, this software-defined WAN architecture can be deployed onto existing networking infrastructure, such as broadband, public Internet protocols, or 4G/LTE telecom connections. This has helped retail groups save almost half of their IT expenses. In fact, SD-WAN has also boosted application performance and serviceability for their customers and employees as IT staff has the agility to rout the traffic towards the optimal channel, enabling a balance across the traffic routes. The agile routing is highly beneficial for remote branches.

SD-WAN in Healthcare

Due to specific demands, healthcare had faced major challenges in the digital transformation. First, the healthcare sector has enlarged its scope in the outreach of its services. A great number of staff frequently works in remote areas to provide patient care. Secondly, the data transfer in the medical sector is not only sensitive, but also involves a large number of packets in a single transfer. Thus, security and bandwidth are major concerns.

In recent years, some healthcare institutes have turned to SD-WAN to address their challenges. Like the retail case mentioned earlier, SD-WAN can leverage existing MPLS, public Internet, 4G/LTE or broadband cable/DSL protocols and route the traffic by deciding on the most optimal channel for the packets. Regarding the data sensitivity, SD-WAN provides end-to-end visibility and centralized instructions across all sites so that security is implemented in an automated approach. Lastly, healthcare institutes save the cost for additional investments in the purchase of more routers and proprietary equipments, not to mention the maintenance costs.

Recommended Hardware

SD-WAN is surely the game-changing technology to address the network challenges before the realization of 5G. To be noted, the real economical benefits of SD-WAN lies in the use of white-box networking hardware instead of a dedicated, proprietary equipment. White-box networking hardware, which can be deployed as vCPE or uCPE, is capable of running third-party VNF (virtualized network functions) to manage the entire network architecture. The key for white-box vCPE/uCPE deployment is pre-validation in order to shorten the deployment. For instance, Lanner Electronics Inc. has a wide range of Intel x86-based white-box vCPE/uCPE pre-validated by top SD-WAN vendors in the world as they offer the time-to-market advantages and high performance for throughput-required applications.