As long as it works, I don’t really care about it heading. And that’s evident based on a lot of the writing on the subject―it’s mentioned, but that’s about as far as the explanation goes. But the uncoupling of the control and data plane in SD-WAN is a fairly straightforward, easy to understand concept.
Control Plane comes first…Often regarded as the brains of the network, the control plane is what controls the forwarding of information within the network. It controls routing protocols, load balancing, firewall configurations, et al., and determines the route data will take across the network.
…then Data PlaneThe data plane forwards the traffic based on information it receives from the control plane. Think UPS. The control plane is dispatch telling the truck(s) where to go and exactly how to get there; the truck delivering the item(s) is the data plane.
So why is separating the control plane and data plane in SD-WAN a good thing?In traditional WAN hardware, such as routers and switches, both the control plane and data plane are embedded into the equipment’s firmware. Setting up, or making changes to, a new location requires that the hardware be accessed and manually configured (see Cumbersome, Slow, Complicated). With SD-WAN, the de-coupled control plane is imbedded in software, so network management is far simpler and can be overseen and handled from a central location.
Here are a few more benefits that SD-WAN users are enjoying as a result of the separation of the Control and Data Planes:
- Easier deployment; SD-WAN routers, once connected, are automatically authenticated and receive configuration information.
- Real-time optimal traffic path detection and routing.
- Traffic that’s sent directly to a cloud services provider, such as AWS or Azure, and not backhauled to a data center first, only then to be handed off to the Internet.
- A significant reduction in bandwidth costs when compared to MPLS.
- Network policies that no longer have to be set for each piece of equipment, but can be created once and pushed out to the entire network.
- Greatly reduced provisioning time; a secondary Internet circuit is all that’s needed, so weeks spent awaiting the delivery of a new WAN circuit from a service provider is a thing of the past.
- A Reduction of costs, headaches and hassles thanks to SD-WAN’s agnostic approach to access type and/or service provider.