SD-WAN and WAN Optimization Aren't Destined to be a Dynamic Duo
by Joe Michalowski on

Just last summer, we published a post that discussed the differences between SD-WAN and WAN optimization.

At the time, many people were simplifying the discussion and wondering if SD-WAN could replace aging WAN optimization solutions. When you break down the purposes of each technology, the two look more like a dynamic duo than a replacement for one another.

But times are already changing.

As business needs evolve, SD-WAN and WAN optimization vendors continue to adapt. Now, the two don’t look destined to be a complimentary dynamic duo. Instead, they’re just merging together.

The Cloud Changes All Things WAN

Think back to a simpler time, to the days when your WAN was just a collection of basic point-to-point links. That was the use case for which WAN optimization emerged.

However, the WAN has become increasingly complicated in recent years. Your point-to-point links are layered on top of one another, duplicated, split amongst multiple telcos and connected by various management solutions.

The expansion of WAN connections made life more difficult for IT pros, but the cloud is what has really changed things.

When private WAN connections linked your remote sites and branch offices together, you had total control. As your applications continue to move to the cloud, you lose a certain level of control, and another layer of complication is added to the WAN.

Cloud-based applications add another point between your original WAN links. Data travels between your private network and the public cloud rapidly, reducing the effectiveness of traditional WAN optimization.

And aside from hype surrounding software-defined networking, this is the reason why SD-WAN has become such a hot topic. By separating traffic control from the WAN hardware, SD-WAN solutions promise to clear up so many of the cloud complications.

This distinction is what makes SD-WAN and WAN optimization look like a dynamic duo. Without the two working together, you may end up with a gap between your fast network backbone and the performance of cloud-based applications like Office 365 and Salesforce.

However, you won’t have to choose separate vendors for SD-WAN and WAN optimization for long.

The Merging of SD-WAN and WAN Optimization

The cloud isn’t going anywhere. And as a result, SD-WAN and WAN optimization vendors are looking to overcome the cloud challenges we’ve discussed here.

We’re starting to see vendors deliver SD-WAN and WAN optimization in a single box. That one WAN solution ensures enterprises can connect remote workers to mission-critical cloud applications while helping networking pros guarantee efficiency.

This shift represents one specific realization—that application end-user experience, not WAN performance, is what really matters.

You don’t want to evaluate separate vendors for SD-WAN and WAN optimization. You just want IT solutions that promise to keep employees productive and effective. And when you hear that these new optimized SD-WAN solutions are “application-aware,” it seems you’re getting just that. Be careful with what application awareness really means, though.

For SD-WAN solutions, application awareness means prioritizing applications across your network. Rather than just optimizing a certain link, these solutions promise to optimize traffic based on the importance of each application.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the solutions can tell you how these applications are performing. Application awareness is important, but it doesn’t replace the need for visibility across the WAN.

If you want to dive a little deeper into what exactly you should be paying attention to when maximizing end-user experience, check out this guide to critical network metrics.

Filed Under: Networking Technology, Performance Monitoring

Tags: SD WAN , SD WAN monitoring , WAN