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Why You Still Need WAN Optimization With SD-WAN

WAN optimization has long been a focus of network teams. From maximizing application performance to reducing latency, the need for optimization techniques like protocol acceleration hasn’t changed. Many enterprises are adding software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) as a way to manage many of the challenges that cloud adoption has introduced. Still, it doesn’t remove the need for WAN optimization.

Successful Cloud Adoption Requires SD-WAN

The adoption of cloud technology puts new levels of pressure on the network. From the performance requirements of specific applications to increasing bandwidth demands, network administrators need better tools for detecting the root of performance issues and new ways to address bandwidth requirements.

Further complicating the enterprise network is the expansion of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and the increasing importance of remote and mobile employees. These technologies have broadened the security plane, essentially erasing traditional network perimeters.

SD-WAN provides a timely solution to the evolving needs of the cloud-era enterprise network. It introduces a virtual layer to the network, providing new levels of control and visibility for configuring, troubleshooting, and provisioning network resources. Administrators can set automated traffic prioritization rules that direct traffic based on how critical its transmission is and what its transport requirements are.

SD-WAN Acceleration Addresses Specific Challenges

SD-WAN’s ability to accelerate cloud-based resource delivery across IT environments is key for addressing the challenges created by cloud adoption. This is primarily due to the benefits SD-WAN optimization introduces, such as agility, flexibility, and scalability. SD-WAN also offers autonomy in network management since administrators can route traffic along cost-effective pathways, such as broadband or 4G LTE, instead of expensive multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) connections.

While the cost savings related to SD-WAN acceleration vary based on your organization’s particular connectivity and performance requirements, some enterprises cite significant cost reductions. In a nutshell, SD-WAN introduces a pathway for more cost-efficient management of growing bandwidth demands. While you may replace some of your MPLS lines, you may also experience exponential growth in bandwidth demand in the next decade. SD-WAN optimization helps mitigate that cost.

The Need for WAN Optimization Remains

While SD-WAN is an important and even revolutionary approach to network management, it doesn’t replace the need for WAN optimization. In fact, these two technologies work best when integrated into the network.

Despite the critical capabilities SD-WAN introduces, WAN optimization is still necessary to support the performance of certain applications or to equip geographically remote locations. Because SD-WAN and WAN optimization solve fundamentally different challenges, they work best in a complementary fashion.

One of the primary reasons WAN optimization is still necessary is the issue of latency. Latency refers to the time it takes for data transmission to move from sender to receiver and back again. In a remote location or where there are long backhauls, latency can become a problem affecting application performance.

Latency is often the first thought when trying to solve a connectivity or performance issue in the network, and it generally can’t be addressed by simply adding more bandwidth. Instead, it’s related to the time it takes to deliver packets over a long distance and how often the data must be re-sent to transmit properly.

WAN optimization remains especially important when there are specific requirements for latency reduction or data-intensive applications. The Frost & Sullivan 2018 SD-WAN global survey shows that 67% of IT professionals indicated that WAN optimization is important and they would like to see an integrated solution with SD-WAN.1  

SD-WAN and WAN Optimization Create the Ideal Network Experience

With more and more enterprises turning to as-a-service, pay-as-you-go IT solutions in the cloud, the opportunity for a similar model for WAN optimization is growing. Providers recognize that enterprises may have specific applications or remote geographic locations that require additional measures to reach the necessary performance and speed. This option lowers the total cost of optimizing the WAN.

An SD-WAN solution that includes unified WAN optimization is the ideal approach to a high-performance WAN. It maximizes the end-user experience across all applications and locations for an optimal network infrastructure. Enterprises interested in this level of network performance should prioritize selecting an SD-WAN solution with a single, unified platform that integrates WAN optimization. This flexibility allows for WAN optimization on demand.

There are also options where providers offer a multi-tiered SD-WAN solution, with some introducing a WAN optimization as a service. This solution offers performance benefits to the enterprise but only requires them to pay for the services used. Like all cloud solutions, the scalability and flexibility of this type of solution make it an attractive way to boost network performance where it’s needed.

For more information about pairing SD-WAN with WAN optimization, contact us at TailWind. We regularly work with enterprises that have geographically dispersed locations for bundled, high-performance, optimized network solutions.


  1. https://www.silver-peak.com/sd-wan-edge-survey