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A software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is a wide area network that utilizes software components to control network operations. Specific management software virtualizes networking hardware in the same way that hypervisors and other components virtualize data center operations.
A wide area network is defined as a network that includes an extensive geographical footprint – contrasted to a local area network (LAN), which is commonly isolated in one home or business office. The software control mechanism in the SD-WAN acts to manage all of these different geographic pieces of the wide area network, in order to help companies and other stakeholders with performance and efficiency, among other things.
The SD-WAN typically helps these wide area networks to handle network traffic with specific protocols, while providing a user-intuitive interface. They may also support features like firewalls, gateways and virtual private network tools for privacy. An SD-WAN can also help with redundancy, backup and recovery, and troubleshooting.