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The Software-Defined Revolution: Making SD-Branch Possible

Network Automation
(Source: Pixabay)

Software is taking over the world, and the software-defined networking paradigm is extending into all aspects of networking, revolutionizing how we think about, configure, and deploy networks.

The wide area network’s fixed links became the SD-WAN, which gives companies multiple choices for connecting distributed sites to the corporate sites, to each other, and to cloud computing infrastructure. SD-WAN provides more network flexibility, lowers cost, and puts the company more in control of its WAN connectivity than was possible with MPLS. The capital expense of a site’s network systems might not significantly decline, but you should find reductions in operational expenses.

From SD-WAN to SD-Branch

The next step was to extend that control and monitoring into the branch networks. The same improvements in visibility and control that SD-WAN offered to the wide-area network have extended into the branch LAN.

SD-Branch provides a common interface for the configuration, monitoring, and troubleshooting of multiple functions (routing, switching, Wi-Fi, network security, micro-segmentation, and application support). It eliminates the need for different user interfaces for each function, which happened when each function was implemented by a separate appliance, even when the products were from the same vendor.

With SD-Branch, the typical suite of network devices is replaced with a simpler hardware platform on which virtual appliances are installed. Maintenance is greatly enhanced. Need new firewall functionality? Then update the firewall virtual instance. Don’t need BGP in the router? Simply install the image that doesn’t contain BGP. The installation of new software allows for new features and functionality, which normally would have come via a hardware platform replacement.

But Isn’t SD-Branch Just Automation?

You might be wondering how SD-Branch compares with the use of automation to achieve the same result. SD-Branch is a more comprehensive approach that offers a single user interface for monitoring, management, and troubleshooting. It may use multiple components under the hood but hides this implementation detail. SD-Branch, like SD-WAN, allows for the definition of policies that define connectivity, quality of service, and security of endpoints and applications. For example, an SD-Branch product could be used to define a new VLAN, provision it across the router, switch, and Wi-Fi infrastructure, and add the application and security policies.

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