What Is Next-Generation SD-WAN?

3 min. read

The Move from MPLS to SD-WAN

Since the 2000s, enterprises have deployed multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) networks to connect branch offices to centralized data centers. MPLS is still a very common deployment of enterprise WANs, requiring hardware routers and manual configuration. It is usually outsourced and managed by service providers who guarantee network performance. However, it can be expensive, and it is not designed to handle the increasingly high volumes of WAN traffic that result from SaaS applications and cloud adoption. 

The growing bandwidth requirements and restricted network budgets fueled by cloud adoption have rendered traditional WAN architectures obsolete. Since 2013, organizations have started migrating toward software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN). Because it is typically a cheaper and more scalable solution, SD-WAN resolves the issues of MPLS without sacrificing the quality of service. However, as businesses leverage SD-WAN, they are discovering that their legacy solutions still can’t scale at the rate required. 

The Growing Need for a Better SD-WAN

As enterprise environments continue to evolve, three fundamental shifts are driving the need for a new breed of SD-WAN:

  • Cloud adoption
  • Availability of cost-effective, high-performance broadband
  • Need for infrastructure automation

In 2020, Palo Alto Networks debuted a next-generation SD-WAN solution that delivers essential branch services, such as networking, security and more, from the cloud. Through machine learning (ML), organizations can eliminate network trouble tickets and improve the end user experience by enabling an increase in WAN bandwidth for a lower cost than legacy SD-WAN solutions.

Next-generation SD-WAN offers three clear benefits: 

  • Steers traffic and defines networking and security policies from an application-centric perspective, rather than a packet-based approach.
  • Minimizes manual operations and enables agile DevOps methods to be used via API integrations.
  • Supports the cloud-delivered branch architecture by enabling all branch services, such as networking, security and more, to be delivered from the cloud.

Requirements of Next-Generation SD-WAN

Legacy SD-WAN approaches aren’t keeping up with the cloud-ready digital enterprise. A next-generation solution should be:

  • Application-defined: Provide deep application visibility, with Layer 7 intelligence for network policy creation and traffic engineering, ensuring exceptional user experience by enabling network teams to deliver SLAs for all apps, including cloud, SaaS and UCaaS.
  • Autonomous: Automate operations and problem avoidance using ML and data science methodologies to simplify network operations and reduce network trouble tickets.
  • Cloud-delivered: Enable a cloud-delivered branch, where branch services such as networking and security are delivered from the cloud, simplifying WAN management and reducing total cost of ownership.

Palo Alto Networks Prisma SD-WAN reduces enterprise WAN costs by up to 82%, simplifies network operations by leveraging ML to eliminate up to 99% of network trouble tickets, and improves the end user experience by enabling a tenfold increase in WAN bandwidth for a lower cost than legacy solutions.

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