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Is SD-WAN the same as WAN Optimization?

WAN Optimization

Aside from the list of positives you’ve likely heard about SD-WAN (and there are many), there’s one thing it isn’t―WAN Optimization. Many incorrectly use SD-WAN and WAN Optimization interchangeably. That isn’t to say SD-WAN doesn’t greatly optimize networks, just that it’s not technically WAN Optimization, which was introduced roughly fifteen (15) years ago when WAN circuits were, well, pricey.
WAN Optimization refers to techniques and technologies that enable data traversing the network to get maximized, which allows, basically, companies to get the most out of their legacy networks that still utilize WAN connections from telco providers, such as AT&T, Charter Spectrum, Level 3, and the like. Fifteen (15) years ago WAN Optimization was all the rage. Bandwidth requirements outgrew many of the IT budgets companies set aside to upgrade WAN connections, so WAN Optimization was the answer. Through caching and protocol optimization, end users could download cached information from a file that had already been downloaded. In short, it squeezed as much bandwidth juice from the WAN as possible.
It worked well for some traffic, but not all, and required dedicated hardware at headquarters and each remote location (then came the management and maintenance…). But bandwidth costs began to drop―precipitously―and having Gig connections became both commonplace and affordable.

Sounds like the death of WAN Optimization, right?

Not so fast. If you surmised that cheaper, commoditized bandwidth and SD-WAN teamed up to toss WAN Optimization onto the scrapheap, you’ve surmised incorrectly. No question, the wallet-friendly cost of broadband and, of course, SD-WAN have reduced the desire for WAN Optimization, but not the need for it. WAN Optimization can serve as an impactful supplement to SD-WAN, and can allow you to make the most out of your infrastructure by:

  • Reducing latency as a result of very wide area networks, meaning those that span long distances.
  • Compressing data to address TCP/IP protocol limitations and satisfy stringent QoS requirements.
  • Addressing congestion due to limited bandwidth, which can limit SD-WAN’s ability to more quickly re-route traffic.
  • Handling slower, chattier protocols more efficiently.

Call on the experts

If you have questions about how SD-WAN can be utilized to bring its many benefits to your organization, like enhanced application performance, less complexity, greater flexibility and reduced network costs, contact GDT’s team of experienced SD-WAN solutions architects and engineers at They’d love to hear from you.


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