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Navigating The Top SD-WAN Providers

A CIO's Guide To Choosing The Right Vendor.

Table of Contents

What is SD-WAN and how does it work?

Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is a type of computer network that allows connecting multiple Internet access sources – such as DSL, cable, cellular or other IP transport – to provide reliable, high-throughput data channels.


The world is changing quite quickly nowadays. Many applications are no longer located within the walls of a company but in the cloud, or they are obtained directly from third parties, the so-called Software-as-a-Service model (SaaS). SD-WAN combines connectivity options – such as multi-protocol label switching (MPLS), mobile and broadband – making it easier for businesses to connect individual business locations to the internal network.

An SD-WAN has a virtual WAN architecture and software-driven technology. An essential element of an SD-WAN is centralized control so that network connections, security mechanisms, policies, application flows, and general management are separated from the associated hardware. Data communication between offices is typically sent over a VPN and routed through the headquarters facility for security reasons. Therefore, it is critical to have a high throughput tunnel that is reliable for this data connection. For example, if a branch uses a single connection to communicate with HQ, there may be insufficient throughput and speed, especially when uploading data from the unit to HQ. Likewise, a single connection at the site will not provide the uptime required for mission-critical applications.

The SD-WAN architecture enables a high-speed IP communications framework between a branch office and headquarters – and between branch offices – even across large geographies. The two devices form a transparent, high-speed data tunnel between them by combining access resources on each side.

What is the difference between WAN and SD-WAN?

A Wide Area Network (WAN) is simply a computer network that spans a large geographic area – usually, it includes a series of Local Area Networks (LANs). The connections can be telephone systems, leased lines or satellites.


With the proliferation of cloud services based on private and public clouds – and services that rely heavily on reliable and powerful applications – companies are sometimes maximizing the limitations of available WAN services. For example, while it may be economically feasible to provide high-bandwidth internet connectivity to the corporate headquarters, it is prohibitively expensive to provide the same speed connections for every branch. As a result, many branches and the internet services available may be limited or expensive.

A software-defined wide area network is different from the way a WAN is typically deployed and managed. An SD-WAN is a software-based technology that overlays an existing network. With an SD-WAN, the physical network is separate from the logical network. It splits the network from the management plane and decouples traffic management and monitoring tasks from the hardware. For example, traditional WANs can only handle so many inbound connections to multiple cloud platforms. SD-WANs are not limited by the underlying hardware that makes up the network.

SD-WAN technology can provide fast, reliable and relatively inexpensive data connectivity between the company’s headquarters or data center with its branches. Compared to using a single and expensive Internet line, SD-WAN can significantly reduce WAN costs. In addition to such cost savings, businesses can get reliable, general-purpose Internet access for offices through the Internet connection at headquarters.

Why is SD-WAN important(and what are the benefits)?

Many companies are turning to software-defined wide area network technology to solve various network connectivity and performance issues and improve their bottom line.

Benefits for organizations include:

  • Save Money
    • SD-WAN offers the benefits of reliable, secure WAN service at Internet prices. Broadband is more economical and flexible than expensive carrier-grade MPLS connections that typically have long lead times and expensive contracts. In addition, SD-WAN technology allows businesses to fully utilize all available network connections without maintaining unused backup links.
  • Simplify Management
    • SD-WAN makes deploying industry-level WAN services fast and easy. Because SD-WANs are based on central cloud architecture, businesses find it easy to scale across many endpoints. Companies can streamline branch infrastructure by embedding network services – whether in the cloud, branch edge or data centers. IT staff can automate zero-touch deployment globally with a single management interface. In addition, SD-WAN provides services such as WAN optimization, so fewer network devices are required in each location.
  • Add Security
    • SD-WAN technology distributes security at the branch level, eliminating the need to return data to a data center for additional security measures such as firewall gateways or domain name system (DNS) enforcement. SD-WANs encrypt WAN traffic when it changes location. Thus, it segments the network and minimizes damage in the event of a breach. SD-WANs can also help IT administrators detect attacks faster by monitoring the amount and types of traffic on a network. There is additional security because SD-WANs allow the use of virtual private networks (VPNs).
  • Improve User Experience
    • Because an SD-WAN uses a central control function to route traffic across the WAN, it increases application performance, improves user experience, increases user productivity, and lowers IT costs. SD-WANs can provide superior cloud application performance from multiple clouds to multiple end-users in various locations. In addition, if a link fails or there is a degradation, the SD-WAN route can dynamically route traffic between dedicated circuits and secure Internet connections – without interruption to critical applications.
  • Increase Agility
    • SD-WAN enables businesses to add or remove WAN connections easily – and to combine mobile and fixed connections. Branches are becoming more flexible as SD-WANs allow multiple links, devices, and services to coexist with legacy infrastructure. SD-WAN technology enables headquarters to quickly deploy WAN services in a remote location without sending IT staff there. Businesses can reduce deployment and configuration times with the more flexible SD-WAN technology. According to a recent industry survey, network flexibility was recently cited as a significant reason companies use SD-WANs.
  • Get Better Performance
    • SD-WAN technology uses the internet to create secure, high-quality connections, removing MPLS network rollback fines. As a result, business application optimization can be delivered cost-effectively while significantly enhancing Software as a Service (SaaS) and other cloud-based services. Also, remote users typically experience less network latency and faster connections when using cloud/SaaS-based applications.
  • SD-WAN for Business
    • Companies are rapidly adopting software-defined wide area network technology because of its many operational and financial benefits. In fact, the International Data Corporation predicts that the SD-WAN infrastructure market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 40.4 percent, reaching $4.5 billion by 2022. SD-WANs can solve a significant business problem by ensuring reliable Internet connectivity. Without robust connectivity, a business can experience disruptions caused by connection errors, network latency, or WAN blackouts. These disruptions can be costly. Gartner estimates network downtime can be as high as $5,600 per minute or over $300,000 per hour. Despite all the benefits, multi-site SD-WAN control and management can still be a significant challenge for businesses with IT resource constraints. As a result, many organizations turn to third-party SD-WAN providers for SD-WAN management software solutions.

Navigating The Top SD-WAN Providers

Nobody has a crystal ball, and looking ten years ahead is certainly impossible in the IT world. But that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for the future at all. This is especially important in the IT field. Because the developments follow each other in rapid succession, otherwise you will be continuously behind the times.

Unfortunately, that is the current situation in many organizations: the IT department is not able (quickly) to meet the needs of the business. Therefore, the task of the CIO is to look much more from a business perspective and provide insight into the entire chain. Embrace a company’s digital strategy and build a dynamic network that facilitates that strategy. And for that, it is important to put SD-WAN high on the agenda.

Here is the list of the ten best SD-WAN Providers:

1: VeloCloud A UCaaS>> service driven by VMWare software.

VeloCloud is a property of VMWare, the leading virtualization software producer. The software-defined WAN is a very similar concept to virtualization because both remap physical resources through how the software presents them to the human user. So, it makes sense for VMWare to get into this field.

The VeloCloud system is available in a UCaaS format, an appliance, or a combination of the two. The cloud service can overlay a WAN on internet connections, and the appliance has multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) capabilities. In addition, the system can link physical sites together and also bring cloud resources into the WAN.


Pros:

  • Built by VMWare, a widely trusted enterprise virtualization company.
  • Uses multiprotocol label switching to increase speeds and avoid resource-intensive lookups.
  • Integrates well into the VMWare ecosystem.
  • Clean, user-friendly interface.

Cons:

  • May have issues integrating with other platforms.

As a very successful virtualization provider, WMWare has the resources and the know-how to make its SD-WAN products robust, reliable, and efficient. In addition, the opportunity of integrating all network infrastructure through VMWare products, which include cloud resources, is a very tempting proposition. These qualities make VeloCloud our top pick for SD-WANs.

2: Citrix SD-WAN>> An appliance or a cloud deployment on Azure, AWS, or Google Cloud

Citrix is the second-largest provider of virtualization software in the world. The commercial and technical logic of fitting SD-WANs into the product list of a VM producer is just as compelling with Citrix as it is for VMWare. (The Citrix line of cloud and networking services was named NetScaler until recently.)

The service is delivered from the cloud platform, and it manages all traffic from all of the client’s business sites and cloud resources. It can implement QoS prioritization by identifying the applications of passing traffic and accelerating time-critical interactive applications, such as VoIP.

Other benefits of the Citrix service include failover procedures that reroute traffic automatically if a network fault is identified.


Pros:

  • Powered by Citrix, one of the largest virtualization companies in the world.
  • Supports QoS functionality for more granular control over traffic.
  • Supports failover systems for multiple external connections, allowing for improved uptimes.
  • Built for MSPs – allowing businesses to resell this service easily.

Cons:

  • Configuration menus could be made easier to use.
  • Citrix SD-WAN is also available as an appliance and a cloud-resident virtual appliance for your team to manage in-house. In addition, the system is also available as a multi-tenanted product aimed at managed service providers.

3: FortiGate SD-WAN>> Available as an appliance, a virtual machine, or a cloud service.


Fortinet made its name through the excellence of its network security software. It builds security features into its FortiGate SD-WAN. This product is an adaptation of the company’s top-selling firewall appliance, FortiGate.

The FortiGate SD-WAN is available as an appliance, a cloud service, or as a virtual machine. This is the Fortinet firewall with added SD-WAN capabilities. The WAN management tools in this package can create WANs across the internet. Features
include WAN optimization and application prioritization.

Fortinet produces a long list of FortiGate appliance models, with the main difference between them being the data throughput capacity that each can handle. In addition, the software version can run on AWS and Azure servers either as a SaaS package or on a “bring your own license” basis.

Pros:

  • Brand has extensive knowledge in networking and security software, giving it more experience than some competitors.
  • Integrates nicely with FortiGate firewalls are other brand hardware.
  • Supports multi-cloud support for either AWS or Azure, making it a flexible cloud-based option.

Cons:

  • WAN management features are only available through the companion tool called FortiManager.

A companion product provides WAN management and monitoring functions. This is called FortiManager, and it is also available as an appliance, as a virtual machine, and as a cloud-based services resident on AWS and Azure servers.

4: SilverPeak Unity EdgeConnect Implemented>> as an appliance or a virtual machine.

SilverPeak Unity EdgeConnect is part of a suite of network support hardware that creates, improves, and monitors SD-WANs. The system is available as an appliance or as a virtual machine.

This system is an edge service, and it can conduct more tasks than just creating an SD-WAN. Other features of this appliance include a firewall and a WAN optimizer. In addition, it is able to create several WAN overlays, creating separate streams for important, time-critical traffic, such as VoIP and interactive video applications.


As well as traffic shaping measures, the Unity EdgeConnect monitors for connection stability and quality. Multiple simultaneous connections also provide redundancy to protect against link failure over the internet. In addition, the system compensates for jitter and out-of-sequence packets by correcting transmission errors and irregularities.

The system comes with an attractive console, showing live traffic statistics, both as data and visualizations.


Pros:

  • Has one of the best interfaces among SD-WAN tools
  • Can runs as an appliance or virtual machine, giving users more flexibility during installation
  • Features traffic shaping tools as well as detailed reports of traffic flow
  • Can correct jitter over different interfaces, great for struggling VOIP connections

Cons:

  • Lacks some advanced security features around the UTM

Other SilverPeak WAN management tools include Unity Orchestrator, a WAN monitor and Unity Boost, a WAN optimizer.

5: Aryaka Networks>> An SD-WAN system delivered as a managed service.

Aryaka is a managed service provider of network services, including an SD-WAN system. As this is a remote-based system, you don’t need to install any network management software on your site or buy appliances. Instead, your sites connect to the Aryaka server via VPNs and then switching between sites, or the internet is taken care of.

You don’t need to keep on-site technicians to manage your WAN because the services of the Aryaka Network operators are included in the subscription price of the SD-WAN.

Aryaka excludes MPLS options and channels all traffic through its servers over the internet. As network data passes through the Aryaka servers, they apply traffic shaping measures, including application prioritization and QoS procedures.

Pros:

  • Provides SD-WAN as a service, no complicated setup or installations.
  • Done-for-you product helps reduce complexity.
  • Web-based dashboard allows customers to view traffic stats from anywhere.

Cons:

  • You pay more to have SD-WAN as a service.
  • You give up some granular control over the SD-WAN deployment.

Although all of the network management is included in the price, Aryaka Networks customers access a system console that gives them live views on traffic flows and analytical tools.

6: CenturyLink SD-WAN>> A managed or co-managed SD-WAN solution.


CenturyLink offers a fully managed or co-managed SD-WAN service. That means that the service includes technicians to set up the WAN and monitor the system’s dashboard while the WAN is in operation. That managed service means that the subscriber not only doesn’t need to install software or run suitable hardware but doesn’t even need on-site technicians.

The managed SD-WAN service is certainly a good option for small businesses. However, larger companies can benefit if their IT strategy is working towards doing away with an internal network altogether and relying on cloud services. In this plan, the SD-WAN system will end up substituting for the internal network and the connections between sites.

Whether you take the managed service option or not, the CenturyLink SD-WAN system will prioritize speed-sensitive applications. In addition, it will monitor all connections to look out for failure, which the CenturyLink service can workaround. CenturyLink is also able to offer add-on security measures to the SD-WAN service.

Pros:

  • Offers full managed and co-managed options give you more control than a typical MSP deployment.
  • Does not require on-site technicians or hardware investments.
  • Supports QoS, ideal for missions critical applications and stringent SLAs.

Cons:

  • Better option for smaller businesses.
  • Additional security comes as an add-on and not standard.

If you want to manage the SD-WAN system yourself and pass on the managed service option, CenturyLink has a useful dashboard, which is accessed through any browser. The dashboard shows live traffic flows and have analytical tools that work on historical data to plan your future capacity needs.

7: Versa SD-WAN>> Cloud-based SD-WAN designed for MSPs. The service has security extras available.


Versa SD-WAN is designed for managed service providers. The service itself is a managed service, so MSPs can pass the service to their clients and use it for their system requirements.

The Versa system is multi-tenanted, so MSPs can request sub-accounts for their clients that need an SD-WAN service. That gives the MSP’s clients direct access to the system’s dashboard to enable them to see data about their networks. As this is a managed service, those end clients don’t need to do anything to monitor or adjust the WAN performance. Neither do the MSPs that are the middlemen in the service relationship. They don’t even need to set up the sub-accounts or get the SD-WAN running. They just have to pass on the client’s details, and the Versa technicians will do the rest.

Pros:

  • Built with Managed Service Providers in mind, making it a viable option for resellers.
  • Multi-tenanted features are scalable and make it easy to manage large amounts of clients.
  • Dashboards are easily shared with the client, giving them their login credentials and view into their SD-WAN.

Cons:

  • Reporting features could be made easier to use.
  • The main out-of-box dashboard can feel cluttered without customization.

Versa has other network products that are also operated as managed services. Those give the MSP opportunities to sell other services to their end clients. Examples of those other services are a next-generation firewall and a secure web gateway.

8: Cato Cloud>> A private internet backbone that carries SD-WAN traffic with added security features.

Cato Networks operates a high-speed internet backbone service and runs a range of cloud services for network and communications businesses. Among those network services, the company provides an SD-WAN system.

The SD-WAN is implemented through an appliance. This is called the Cato Socket, and it routes all business traffic over a local connection to the nearest access point of the Cato backbone. The software embedded in the socket applies a range of services, including QoS procedures, traffic shaping, application prioritization, and packet duplication, to overcome packet loss.

Not all traffic is sent over the private backbone. Where that line is too distant to be a viable carrier, the Socket chooses MLPS and internet transport options to reach nearby WAN sites.

Pros:

  • Offers a suite of services around SD-WAN, such as high-speed internet backbone and cloud communication services.
  • SD-WAN implementation is made easy through a preconfigured application socket.
  • Supports traffic shaping, WOoS, and packet duplication, making it a feature-rich option.

Cons:

  • Lacks a done-for-you option, leaving it up to you to interpret logs and act on events.
  • Lacks in-depth product training.

9: Cisco Meraki SD-WAN>> Network security and SD-WAN in an appliance.

Cisco’s Meraki division provides cloud services to businesses, including an SD-WAN system. In addition, Cisco is a major supplier of network equipment and supplies many routers on the internet; what users like most about this service are that the console is easy to access from anywhere. For example, through a browser, and the system is easy to learn.

Pros:

  • Feature-rich platform supports multiple VPN configurations well.
  • Connectivity is easy to establish.

Cons:

  • Customized configurations can be difficult to implement.
  • Configuration doesn’t scale well with a large number of multiple sites.
  • Could use more controls.


The interface makes setting policies and implementing them very easy. All branches link to the cloud Meraki server through VPNs. So, you do need to install VPN client software on the routers on each side, but that’s all you will need on-site. All of the selectively switching traffic between sites or out to the internet is taken care of by the Meraki SD-WAN service.

10: Oracle SD-WAN>> Available as a virtual machine, an appliance, or a cloud service.

Oracle stresses its SD-WAN service’s ability to link up the cloud services used by its clients to their LANs. At the same time, the service will connect different sites. Oracle’s SD-WAN is cloud-based and communicates with all client sites and resources over the internet, so it doesn’t have any MPLS capabilities.

Oracle paid close attention to failover procedures and stressed its reliability goals. As a result, the SD-WAN system can be expanded into a full “edge” service. This includes a cloud-based firewall and traffic optimization measures. Edge services can also be deployed as a virtual machine or as an appliance.

Pros:

  • Great network visualizations
  • Connectivity is easy to establish
  • Robust failovers for site redundancy
  • Can operate as an edge service

Cons:

  • Reporting can be complicated and cookie cutter.
  • Setting up custom dashboards and live metrics is overly complicated.

Another SD-WAN-related service offered by Oracle is its WAN monitoring system, called SD-WAN Aware. This service is also delivered from the cloud.

In Summary

To get the best SD-WAN vendor, set your strategy- Your starting point on your SD-WAN buyer’s journey is to decide whether you want to host the SD-WAN software, buy a specialized appliance to implement the WAN connections opt for a cloud-based SD-WAN service. As you can see from the list, we have looked into all three deployment methods and found solutions for each.

Once your strategy is sorted out, your search becomes a lot easier. This shortlist of the best SD-WAN vendors should help to speed up that process.


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