What Is SD-Branch | Centralized Security for Branch Office Networks

5 min. read

What Is SD-Branch?

SD-branch is an emerging concept that has shaped how organizations architect their networks. SD-branch leverages the principles of SD-WAN to simplify the infrastructure required in branch offices to support an IT system. With SD-branch technology, companies aim to phase out traditional, lengthy and expensive IT implementations by expanding the software-defined environment to branch locations. By simplifying the network and installation, a branch employee can easily deploy the apparatus at a location. SD-branch provides remote users the same secure remote access as users who are local or on-site.

Additionally, implementing SD-branch technology can alleviate potential threats that IoT devices could bring to a branch network. The Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to be a high growth segment for years to come as organizations automate and innovate within their business. With this comes the increasing instances of data being transferred to a cloud environment, making it obvious why software-as-a-service (SaaS) security will be so vital in protecting against data loss, theft and malware.

SD-WAN vs. SD-Branch

SD-WAN and SD-Branch are highly correlated frameworks that work hand in hand to simplify and strengthen network connectivity. SD-WAN, short for software-defined wide area network, is a virtualized service that connects and extends enterprise networks over large geographical distances. SD-WAN monitors the performance of WAN connections and manages traffic in an effort to maintain high speeds and optimize connectivity. SD-Branch accompanies SD-WAN by expanding this concept into a branch IT system. SD-Branch lays upon the foundation of SD-WAN and aggregates everything into one central management such that there is greater visibility throughout the local area network. This allows a branch authority to more easily manage the network and make changes. SD-Branch reduces expensive hardware implementations by an organization and creates an infrastructure that is easy to install, giving organizations the opportunity to automate network tasks and policy updates.

Why Is SD-Branch Important?

Branch Networking

Branch networking is the means by which data is distributed amongst various branches, data centers and remote locations. As more organizations go through digital transformation, branch networks are required to meet security and connectivity demands. More cloud advancements are causing branch network security to fall at risk of being compromised, which is where SD-Branch offers a solution. Through the use of SD-WAN’s capabilities of allowing for various methods of connection, traffic is directed in a WAN environment more efficiently, and overall branch networking quality is improved. SD-Branch promises a centralized unit that IT can then use to remotely control all security and networking capabilities.

Branch Office Network Security

One cannot comprehend the importance of SD-branch without understanding the significance of having quality security and connectivity within a branch network. With the rise of devices and applications at the edge, the risk of a security breach is much greater. Criminals understand that the network edge can be the weakest link within an organization, which is why companies must ensure exceptional network security at the edge. Branch office security enables organizations to secure internet traffic from branch to branch, data centers, headquarters and remote employees. Prioritizing data security and making sure transfers occur from authorized endpoints are critical to protecting a business.

SD-Branch Benefits and Components

Perhaps one of the best words to summarize the benefits of SD-Branch is efficiency. Not only do businesses reduce costs by switching to a SD-Branch model, but they also receive greater versatility in many network situations. IT is more strongly equipped to deploy new changes with speed, including policies and security measures through the use of the SD-Branch framework, due to the added visibility they receive through a single pane that provides insights into all branch network functionalities. Instead of having to constantly spend time learning new technologies, companies can leverage the consolidated nature of a software-defined branch to focus more on other areas of their business, like innovation. In addition, by eliminating the need for IT to implement complicated hardware at each location, cost can be reduced as well. Organizations also save money on energy consumption through the consolidation of multiple appliances on one panel. As a result, the implementation of SD-Branch reduces hardware, simplifies branch architecture and allows branch networks to be more adaptable in the case of evolving requirements.

SD-Branch Challenges

A major challenge with SD-Branch is that with everything consolidated, IT teams will struggle to separate networking and security policies between their respective network and security admins. Many organizations have built their architecture to separate the roles of network admins versus security admins, and with consolidated management, this is clearly an issue with SD-Branch. With no clear lines distinguishing which policy goes to which team, there could be a delay in response or remediation time when employees raise an issue.

SD-Branch Solutions

Prisma SD-WAN

While there are multiple vendors to choose from that offer SD-branch solutions, Palo Alto Networks offers a next-generation SD-WAN solution that implements some of the most powerful computing concepts, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to provide a top-tier product. Prisma SD-WAN goes beyond just cutting costs through a shift away from MPLS. It provides a premium functionality on all the standard capabilities desired in any SD-branch, like zero touch provisioning and network visibility. Prisma SD-WAN delivers automation, lower total cost of ownership, greater application performance, and a rich set of security and network services from the cloud.

Prisma SASE

Connectivity is just one aspect that is needed for branch offices and hybrid workforces. As mentioned previously, security is just as important. Organizations have been turning toward secure access service edge (SASE) as a solution whereby networking and security services converge in a single platform. Palo Alto Networks Prisma SASE combines best-of-breed security, Prisma Access, with best-of-breed next-gen SD-WAN, Prisma SD-WAN, into a cloud-delivered platform to deliver exceptional user experience. Learn more about how Prisma SASE can help protect and connect your branch offices and hybrid workforces.