What is SD-WAN and how does it work?

SD-WAN is virtual WAN architecture that simplifies the setup of branch offices through zero-touch provisioning and integrated network and security management. It can replace Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) or work alongside it—adding broadband and 4G/LTE access.

Here's how embracing networking solutions like SD-WAN can improve the remote work experience while saving your organization massive amounts of money.


SD-WAN optimizes your apps for the best remote work experience (while dramatically reducing your networking costs)

As an IT leader, you need to provide branch and remote employees with high-performance, secure apps. And you must do this with limited resources and a tight budget.

If your wide area network (WAN) isn’t “cloud-ready,” you will have a hard time scaling your IT environment to support remote workers and contractors. An agile network is also vital when connecting new branches and making it easy for all of your global sites to do business.

Many enterprises are adopting software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) to make their networks more efficient, give users a better experience, and save significant amounts of money.

Better yet, SD-WAN increases your available bandwidth, optimizes application performance, offers enterprise-class security, and makes your network “cloud-ready.” With these foundations in place, you can quickly migrate apps to the cloud, support digital transformation, and improve your business continuity.

This white paper will show you how implementing SD-WAN can help you achieve these benefits while dramatically reducing your networking costs. You’ll also discover how choosing a modern SD-WAN solution can improve your security and IT efficiencies.

Want to know how? Keep reading….  


An independent analysis found that implementing SD-WAN can cut enterprise bandwidth costs by 75% or more, compared with MPLS.1


SD-WAN solves the challenges with legacy networking infrastructure

Does your enterprise use MPLS technologies? If so, your network technologies may be more than 20 years old.

These aging systems cost hundreds of thousands— or potentially, millions of dollars—annually to maintain. They require best-in-class network routers and ongoing support contracts, making it costly for you to deploy MPLS in new locations. You also must invest in T1 circuits, which are more expensive than internet connectivity while providing less bandwidth. Your bandwidth costs can quickly add up as your remote workforce grows, and employees use more cloud services.

MPLS systems can also take months to procure and implement in new locations—making it hard for you to scale your network as your workforce shifts and your organization grows.

Additionally, MPLS cannot meet today’s requirements for cloud connectivity. MPLS technology is designed to connect branches to data centers (and its residing security stack), not directly to the internet. Backhauling traffic to a data center may cause latency, leading to poor application performance. These problems are incredibly frustrating when your remote teams rely on latency-sensitive applications such as VoIP, video conferencing, and virtualized applications and desktops.

Moving to a virtualized SD-WAN infrastructure can reduce your networking costs while improving your network’s performance. However, you may have concerns that an SD-WAN project will eat up your limited IT budget.

But what if moving to SD-WAN would free up to 60% of your communications costs so that you can direct funds towards other high-value projects?

Telecommunications is the largest IT expense. In 2021, global organizations will spend $1.4 trillion on telecommunications, a 2.1% increase from 2020.3

Application Performance

MPLS networks have become far less efficient and economical as organizations have undergone digital transformation and seen their network traffic loads become much larger and more complex.

MPLS-based WANs typically must backhaul traffic through a head-end such as a data center in order to apply polices, which sharply diminishes employee productivity by making their virtual and cloud applications far less reliable.

SD-WAN technology bonds links within a network overlay, allowing you to use high-bandwidth broadband internet in addition to or as a replacement for thinner MPLS connectivity.

SD-WAN is also far less compromising to the user experience than the MPLS backhaul paradigm, as it automatically reroutes traffic of poor quality or failed links to keep users connected.

Managing High Costs MPLS connectivity is much more expensive than comparable broadband internet, cellular, or satellite plans. Not only does it require pricey, bespoke router infrastructure, but the amount of bandwidth available for the high cost is still not nearly sufficient to reliably run real-time applications and chatty cloud services. SD-WAN logically bonds diverse network links into a single, virtual WAN path for carrying real-time and TCP apps. By bringing multiple types of connectivity under the same umbrella, administrators can lower costs and aggregate bandwidth to deliver better user experiences from any location. 
Scalability and Flexibility Moves, adds, and changes are complicated ordeals in a conventional WAN, due to the fundamental reliance on a hardware-defined architecture, as well as security considerations. Additionally, provisioning carrier-based MPLS can take months.

Zero-touch provisioning in SD-WAN lets you get branch WAN connections up and running in minutes, rather than days.

SD-WAN also creates a future-proof WAN architecture that can accommodate a wide variety of on-prem, web, virtual, cloud, and SaaS apps and desktops.

Maintaining Visibility and Control

MPLS has limited functionality for visualizing the status of the network at any given moment and for controlling any relevant threats to network performance and data.

MPLS WANs lack firewall functionality and are only secure because traffic is kept off of the public internet.

SD-WAN centralizes and simplifies your IT management through a single pane of glass—giving you end-to-end visibility across apps, users, and networks.

SD-WAN identifies and routes traffic over WAN links in accordance with programmable and scalable policies, while using multiple integrated security implementations—from firewall to IDS/IPS platforms—to secure application flows without compromising performance.


The top 4 SD-WAN benefits

SD-WAN provides high-quality application experiences by making your WAN faster and more reliable. It does this by bonding disparate links together and then intelligently routing traffic across your WAN to optimize bandwidth. Once implemented, SD-WAN can dramatically improve app performance while providing you with significant cost savings. Here’s how:

1. SD-WAN improves your security

With SD-WAN, you can consolidate your network edge infrastructure and manage everything from a single location. Centralizing your security policies removes the human error that comes with configuring edge connections manually. Meanwhile, built-in security, such as next-generation firewalls, protects your data and enterprise at the network edge.

2. SD-WAN simplifies your network administration, making your IT team more efficient

SD-WAN centralizes your network management, making it easy for you to monitor users and optimize application performance. Meanwhile, zero-touch deployment allows your IT team to quickly turn up a new location or update on the WAN.

3. SD-WAN dramatically reduces your networking expenses

Leverage low-cost and flexible internet and leased line, broadband or LTE network connections in place of or in addition to MPLS links. With SD-WAN, you can also:

  • Minimize the costs of and dependency on private network services.
  • Consolidate your infrastructure, including your routers and firewalls.
  • Optimize your bandwidth to maximize utilization.

4. SD-WAN delivers a better user experience for your SaaS, cloud, and virtual apps 

With this cloud-ready solution, you can prioritize business-critical applications and intelligently routes traffic on the fastest available path between any two points. This improves end-user productivity by reducing downtime.


Citrix SD-WAN benefits: Give remote workers a secure, always-on network

Citrix SD-WAN is a next-generation WAN Edge solution. It provides a high-performance experience for both onsite and remote users, ensuring business continuity in times of rapid change.

Here are five ways Citrix SD-WAN improves app performance while providing fast payback:

1. Give employees secure access—no matter where they are working.

Citrix SD-WAN protects your data, whether employees access your network at a branch, from home, or from their mobile devices.

Integrated edge security, delivered on-premises or in the cloud, provides IDS/IPS, web filtering, malware protection, and SSL inspection in a single solution. The platform also includes next-generation firewalls that safeguard against zero-day threats and malware, while preventing end-users from accessing harmful content and applications.

With Citrix SD-WAN, your IT team can deliver consistent security policies from a central, cloud-hosted management tool—eliminating the complexities of deploying, configuring, and managing multiple products.

Do you already have a security provider? Citrix gives you the flexibility to use our platform or integrate with our security partners, including Check Point, iboss, Palo Alto Networks, Zscaler, and Symantec.

2. Improve IT efficiencies.

Citrix SD-WAN allows you to manage your network from a single platform. Log in at any time to monitor users, sites, permissions, applications, and WAN links. Analytics will show you how employees are using apps and how this traffic impacts your performance. You can monitor your overall network performance or drill down to analyze specific sites, users, and sessions.

You can also get new sites and remote workers up and running quickly with zero-touch deployment. ZTD automatically discovers new appliances in your SD-WAN and makes it easy to roll out new branch appliances without needing to be on-site.

3. Improve app performance and the end-user experience.

Ensure a high-quality app experience for every employee, whether they work on-site or remotely. Citrix SD-WAN detects and optimizes more than 4,300 applications in real-time, using packet racing over two links and bi-directional Quality of Service (QoS).

Citrix SD-WAN also mitigates link outages and brownouts with sub-second failover for demanding applications. If a server is busy, Citrix SD-WAN will automatically reroute traffic to back-up links to provide the best application experience.

4. Choose the deployment option that best meets your needs. 

Citrix SD-WAN offers you a choice in deployment so that you can improve the application experience for users—no matter what your current IT environment looks like and how it may change in the future.

You can deploy Citrix SD-WAN in a public, private, or hybrid cloud. Choose from our public cloud partners, including Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Platform.

Not ready to move to the cloud? Our on-premises deployments allow you to leverage low-cost broadband alongside or instead of MPLS. If you want to move to the cloud later, you can do so easily with Citrix and won’t have the high costs of changing vendors.

5. Eliminate the heavy lifting. 

Don’t have time to install and manage your SD-WAN in-house? We’ve got you covered. With a Citrix SD-WAN Managed Service Provider (MSP), you can get up and running quickly without taking time away from your other IT initiatives. Our MSPs have extensive experience with enterprise cloud migrations and can help you implement and manage your SD-WAN.


SD-WAN can save you 40%-60% on your annual network infrastructure and communications spend. The typical payback period is 6-12 months.5

The fact that all connections are encrypted means the training centers now enjoy a level of security that simply didn’t exist before. That helps me enormously from an IT governance and management perspective, but it also ensures we meet the levels of security required to receive funding from government bodies.

Gerry Philpott
Head of Information and Communications Technology
Rehab Groupt

See full case study

Act now and save 40%-60% on your current network spend.

A Citrix networking expert can show you how SD-WAN will improve your performance while lowering your operational costs. With Citrix SD-WAN, you can achieve substantial cost savings through optimized bandwidth and consolidated infrastructure.

You can apply these savings to the digital transformation projects you may have on hold due to a lack of funding. Ultimately, modernizing your network with SD-WAN drives value across your entire organization.

Schedule your FREE consultation and demo now.

1 TeleGeography: WAN Pricing Mythbusters: Can SD-WAN Cut Your Network Spend in Half?, May 14, 2020

2 Futuriom, 2020 SD-WAN Growth Report: Market Poised to Accelerate, June 2020

3 Gartner: Gartner Says Global IT Spending to Reach $3.9 Trillion in 2020, January 15, 2020

4 Futuriom, 2020 SD-WAN Growth Report: Market Poised to Accelerate, June 2020

5 Citrix webinar, Better Connectivity at a Lower Cost: The Business Case for SD-WAN, September 15, 2020. Stats provided by recent experiences of Complete Communications customers.