The Past Present and Future of SD-WAN: An Infrastructure Report


June 6, 2024

Surviving and thriving in today’s ever-shifting digital environment requires businesses to adopt innovative solutions that enhance network infrastructure. That’s where SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) comes into play.

Compared to other solutions like MPLS, VPN, DIA, Hybrid WAN and EPL, to name a handful, it’s a far more flexible and cost-effective way for companies to connect all their pieces-parts—physical offices, remote workers, data centers, cloud environments.

But many orgs don’t realize the enormous benefits SD-WAN offers, says Mindsight Principal Solutions Architect Ryan Hanna. In short, “SD-WAN has more granular control and failover. It also has a lot more mechanisms to monitor traffic latency and application issues.”

We asked him to dive deeper into why SD-WAN is gaining popularity, how it has changed and where it’s headed.

The evolution of SD-WAN

A decade ago, when a company wanted to increase cost savings and spin up a bunch of branch offices to connect to their main office or data center, they’d go to the big box telcos—the AT&Ts and Verizon and big circuit providers that have their own SD-WAN solutions. Those providers would drop an MPLS circuit and run all your traffic. But there are huge costs associated with that. Fast-forward 10 years, and the telcos don’t have to do it for you anymore because it’s built into the products that are used every day by enterprises. Because of that, you can buy your own MPLS, internet, or 5G internet connection, and then tie it into your firewall and create your own SD-WAN to connect all your offices or datacenters. Previously, you could do that by purchasing and installing various hardware, but everybody did it differently. Now it’s all part of most firewalls so you can more easily and much more cheaply manage your internet security policies to your current MPLS network, internet, or your 5G cellular backup connection. Maybe you have to buy some hardware as a CapEx cost, but the operational costs are far lower.  Because now you’re just buying the circuits and you’re doing the seamless failover between all three of these different services yourself as opposed to relying on a carrier to do it.

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Flexibility and agility

Everything these days is moving to the cloud. When you build your SD-WAN with some providers, you can also manage it from their cloud and not have to rely on an on-premise device. With today’s SD-WAN, you’re managing—or hiring an MSP like Mindsight to manage— your own cloud from anywhere, including your smartphone. Here’s one of many examples: Say you want to increase or decrease the bandwidth for certain applications. Providers charge a lot of money for that. But you can avoid those costs with SD-WAN, which allows you to shift traffic to the internet and create custom policies, as well optimize your failover between MPLS, internet and 5G.

Optimized network performance

With SD-WAN, you can create custom triggers or policies. Maybe you want to limit latency for Azure or Google Cloud to 60 milliseconds or monitor for packet loss. You can set policies based on things like bandwidth, availability and speed in order to failover applications to another private circuit or internet. That also applies to creating traffic thresholds. So, for instance, you can limit Facebook traffic and give business applications bandwidth preference.

Enhanced security

SD-WAN is the firewall you’re currently using. It’s usually a license that’s added to a Palo Alto firewall, a Cisco firewall, a Fortinet firewall. It’s already baked in. You can configure the SD-WAN part, but you can also configure the security policies: your IPS, your antivirus, your web filtering. So it’s not really an additional product that you have to learn or configure. It’s already readily available for you to use with the product that you are most familiar with.

Cloud optimization

SD-WAN constantly monitors all your internet connectivity and providers. If one network is down, you can set up policies that automatically shift traffic to another connection that’s operational. And you can do it on a per-application basis. Say Microsoft isn’t playing well with AT&T. No problem: let’s migrate over to Comcast. It knows what to do and when to do it, no matter what cloud service you use.

How Mindsight is helping to implement SD-WAN

One of our customers has 21 manufacturing sites around the country. For seven or eight years, they’ve been stuck in their traditional telco SD-WAN solution. But you know they’re paying upwards of $27,000 a month, or $330,000 a year, to connect 21 sites. To save money, they bought new SD-WAN hardware and we ordered them circuits. But those are one-time CapEx costs. Using that hardware and those circuits, Mindsight is creating an SD-WAN that connects all the 21 locations and includes traffic optimization and failover features. Which means the client no longer has to pay a telco for maintenance and upgrades. When we’re done, they’ll have their own internet and 5G backup to each location. As a result, their operational costs have plummeted from $324,000 a year to $70,000. Even accounting for $120,000 in up-front hardware costs, that’s a huge savings of more than $200,000 annually for the first year and more in subsequent years.

The future of SD-WAN

A lot of companies are looking for cost-saving alternatives and moving to a cloud-based model where they can easily manage everything centrally, including SD-WAN and firewall policies, without having to log into each individual device. I’m also having conversations about getting more value out of existing firewalls that are already SD-WAN-ready. And I see SD-WAN evolving even more with added services, visibility improvements of your network, additional trigger policies to monitor different cloud applications. It’s almost like a plug-and-play type of solution where you can get better security and visibility and tie it into your SD-WAN cloud that connects into all your other sites, cloud services,  and branch offices. I think people are getting wiser about SD-WAN, but they still don’t know how to take real advantage of it.

For more details, email us at or call (630) 981-5050.

About Mindsight

Mindsight, a Chicago IT services provider, is an extension of your team. Our culture is built on transparency and trust, and our team is made up of extraordinary people – the kinds of people you would hire. We have one of the largest expert-level engineering teams delivering the full spectrum of IT services and solutions, from cloud to infrastructure, collaboration to contact center. Our highly certified engineers and process-oriented excellence have certainly been key to our success. But what really sets us apart is our straightforward and honest approach to every conversation, whether it is for an emerging business or global enterprise. Our customers rely on our thought leadership, responsiveness, and dedication to solving their toughest technology challenges.

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