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Does SD-WAN Spell the End for VPNs?

BY futurefirewall

The emergence of SD-WAN as a major network technology is pushing experts to ask whether there’s a future for VPNs.Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) were originally employed at the introduction of the internet because IT teams discovered that VPNs could be used to connect to remote gateways. For businesses that could not afford a wide area network (WAN), the technology allowed them to connect multiple locations to their network.

As multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) emerged, VPNs became less attractive as MPLS offered reliable connectivity at a lower price. That is until increasing complexity surrounding the management of MPLS caused VPNs to demonstrate their value again. This time for managing connectivity to multiple sites and, particularly, international connections.

Today, VPNs are again facing extinction because a super-charged version of VPN technology has emerged in the form of software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). However, there are similarities between SD-WAN and VPNs. They’re both able to automate, control, and configure the network across branch locations with centralized control. And like VPNs, SD-WAN uses an overlay over the fiber network, but SD-WAN is far easier to deploy and operate.

SD-WAN is complex in its development, but its user-friendly design allows anyone to configure and troubleshoot the network. It does not require a highly-skilled network engineer to maintain the solution, unlike VPNs. With a VPN, the complexity is often related to the configuration of individual firewalls, wherein the case of SD-WAN, this function is automated.

For VPNs, the firewalls set-up requires VPN tunnels and the manual creation of encryption algorithms for individual sites, and these must be managed again every time there’s a small change made to the firewall.

In the case of SD-WAN, network policies can be set up to automatically handle a variety of application-based, user-based, or other designations for network management. Changes are handled at a portal level versus a coding and configuration level.

The other key differentiator with SD-WAN and the one that may render VPNs obsolete in the next couple of years is the ability of SD-WAN to manage a variety of connection types. From MPLS to LTE, with connections to either private or public cloud environments, businesses can access a hybrid network solution that optimizes connectivity, speed, and overall performance.

Some enterprises may hang on to VPNs due to their reliability and the comfort level that comes from using a technology that has been tested over many years. Eventually, better performance, cost savings, and the automation capabilities of SD-WAN will make it impossible for businesses to keep putting off adopting the technology.

Companies pursuing digital transformation or hoping to improve their agility in an effort to outpace competitors will prioritize SD-WAN adoption and retire their VPNs.

If you’re considering how SD-WAN might empower your enterprise to execute and drive business objectives, contact us at SimpleWAN. Let’s talk about the specific benefits improved network performance and agility will offer your enterprise and the cost savings you can expect to see with deployment.