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Extending SD-WAN to Wireless LAN
December 10, 2018 | By Kowshik Bhat @ Riverbed Technologies
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We are pleased to share with you all an interesting article contributed by Kowshik Bhat who is Sr. director of product marketing at Riverbed Technologies. After spending over two decades in the networking and telecommunications industry, and engaging with businesses all across the globe, Kowshik knows his true passion is in educating people on how to apply technology to address business needs. 


Kowshik Bhat

Sr. Directgor of Product Marketing at Riverbed Technologies



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Wireless LANs are quickly becoming the primary connection option in most organizations. Employees use their mobile devices, including personal devices, to connect to business apps when not at their desk. Visitors expect a guest network so that they can remain in touch during their stay. Internet of Things devices need to relay their data and receive instructions. Employees at their desks often don’t bother to plug their laptop into the Ethernet cable because Wi-Fi is easier, so new and renovated offices are skipping wired connections entirely.

Wireless networks need to be easier

While Wi-Fi is great for users, IT departments with limited wireless knowledge can find it difficult to build and operate robust, high-performance networks for business-critical applications. Wireless networks often grow to support hundreds of distributed access points and thousands of devices, and management of wireless LANs can consume a disproportionate amount of time and resources. In many organizations, one IT group is responsible for WAN, LAN, and wireless management – this is the situation for over 70% of respondents to a recent Techvalidate survey. These groups are often trying to simplify their infrastructure and operational workflows, hoping to improve productivity while reducing costs.

Unifying connectivity and management

Software-defined networking (SD-WAN) is getting IT closer to these goals. SD-WAN is increasing IT productivity, reducing operating costs, improving security, and enhancing network performance for all types of on-premise and cloud-based applications. Extending SD-WAN into the wireless office creates an end-to-end network with a single management dashboard, common workflows, and consistent policy frameworks for user access across the entire network.


Operations staff monitor and manage the entire network via a cloud-based console from any location. Policy-based management simplifies ongoing network equipment administration, translating policies into operational rules and eliminating tedious, error-prone activities that rely on CLIs and scripts. New rules and updates are automatically pushed out to SD-WAN gateways and Wi-Fi access points across the network, enhancing the overall security posture.

Improving security from users to clouds

Security is the responsibility of the whole network, as processes shift location and SD-WANs spin up virtual gateways in cloud infrastructure such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS. Extending security policies into the cloud makes the cloud application infrastructure just another extension of WAN infrastructure, and the same is true for wireless LANs. Getting users and devices onto a wireless network quickly and easily presents many challenges, not the least of which is also making sure the network is secure. Software-defined network features allow administrators to separate users and devices into discrete groups for additional security. Business-focused policies classify users and determine which resources guests, employees, and devices can access. Single sign-on and federated ID management simplifies user access to network resources while enhancing security as policies follow users across locations. Centralized controllers identify traffic associated with specific individuals or groups and direct it onto the most appropriate paths as determined by global security policies.

Enhancing network performance

Administrators also use policy-based management to improve the predictability of network performance. Rules prioritizing business sensitive applications, enforcing bandwidth limits, and blocking or throttling traffic based on corporate policies are easily created and updated. Deep-packet-inspection techniques identify traffic flows by user, application, and source or destination. Advanced SD-WAN and wireless LAN systems then work together to enforce the business policies by inspecting bulk traffic flow across sites and at the wireless access points. 


For example, prioritizing a business-critical Oracle application at the SD-WAN gateways, and ensuring users get similar application priority when they connect to the wireless LAN. Conversely, assigning a lower priority to storage backups from personal devices in the access points and business-aware SD-WAN infrastructure ensure that this less urgent traffic does not consume excess bandwidth.

Building better wireless networks

Extending SD-WAN architecture to wireless LANs addresses some fundamental challenges of today’s highly mobile business environment, including network access, security, and performance. Simplified network administration improves IT productivity and reduces operational costs with centralized control, policy-based management, and automation. With SD-WAN technology, IT organizations can build wireless networks that readily accommodate current and future business needs.

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[HFR Private 5G: my5G]


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