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What is SD-WAN?

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

What is SDWAN

SD-WAN is a software-defined WAN architecture that is designed to augment and optimize MPLS WAN solutions (for high priority traffic) with public internet (for lower priority traffic) or in some cases public internet fully replacing MPLS WAN links enabling more efficient use of available bandwidth. SD-WAN provides dynamic application-aware capabilities, which enables different types of traffic to be intelligently directed across the WAN based on the needs of each application. SD-WAN also simplifies and centralizes policy management. The business benefits of SD-WAN are many, including a better end-user experience, increased productivity, lower bandwidth cost, and greater efficiency.

SD-WAN Architecture

As a result of these benefits, the SD-WAN market is growing at nearly 32% per year1 and expected to reach $3.2B by 20242. Leading SDWAN providers include Juniper, Riverbed, Citrix Netscaler, Fortinet, Silver Peak, Cisco, Versa and VMWare.

Unfortunately, few enterprises know how to evaluate competing SD-WAN solutions, and therefore are unaware of which implementation best suits their needs and what level of performance they will achieve. This does not mean evaluating SD-WAN products is impossible! In fact, with the right testing tools, it is quite feasible to know what to expect from different SD-WAN offerings prior to deployment.

The first test tool needed to validate any SD-WAN solution is a Network Impairment Emulator (NIE) (also referred to as WAN Emulator). An NIE emulates real world network conditions such as delay, packet loss, bit errors, packet delay variation, bandwidth limitation, etc., in a lab environment prior to deployment. Hardware based NIEs in particular provide precise and repeatable impairment conditions in a very controlled manner. With an NIE, businesses can verify before implementation that traffic flows as expected under adverse conditions and different loads. This includes ensuring, for example, that SD-WAN handles failover properly by re-routing traffic through an alternate path. Businesses can also use NIE to gauge expected QoE levels to avoid post deployment surprises.

The second essential testing tool is an inline network analyzer and packet capture device. With its ability to provide visibility of network traffic at a packet level, this tool is ideal for troubleshooting SD-WAN implementations. Sitting inline between two devices under test, the analyzer captures and decodes layer 2 through layer 7 protocols at full line rate.

SD-WAN is being used by enterprises to increase the capacity and cost effectiveness of their networks due to its ability to manage and leverage lower-cost broadband and mobile internet access. Testing of SD-WAN solutions, however, is lagging. Many businesses are unaware of how to optimize SD-WAN solutions and mitigate the risks that they pose to mission critical applications. Such organizations are putting their own business at risk. To successfully implement a SD-WAN solution while reducing risk, it makes sense to test any SD-WAN solution with a network impairment emulator and analyzer. Combined, these two test tools enable businesses to deploy SD-WAN solutions with confidence.

Fortunately Aukua Systems’ MGA2510 is available to provide the unique flexibility required for both evaluating SD-WAN solutions in the lab, as well as for post-deployment troubleshooting and packet capturing for deeper analysis. Learn more here!

Author - Jason Nutt is Co-Founder and CEO of Aukua Systems where he focuses on a customer-centric approach to delivering innovative solutions to problems. Jason has more than 20 years of experience in the Test and Measurement and Network Visibility industries. Prior to Aukua, he held leadership positions with Ixia, Anue Systems and Spirent Communications where he brought multiple successful product lines from concept to market. Jason holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Aukua Systems is a leading provider of Ethernet testing and visibility solutions. Whether developing, validating, deploying, supporting or managing applications or networks, our products help improve performance and make networks more secure. The Aukua product line includes packet capture tools, analyzers, traffic generators and impairment emulators, and all Aukua's solutions are hardware based, precise and 100% full line rate. Since 2015, equipment manufacturers, large enterprises, service providers, and government agencies worldwide have depended on Aukua to build stronger networks. To learn more, visit



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