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Distributed enterprises are saving money on network costs while increasing network reliability by taking advantage of new SD-WAN products. An SD-WAN network connects corporate headquarters and datacenters with local offices and SAAS applications through multiple WAN links, usually combining an expensive but highly reliable MPLS network for high priority data with one or more low cost Internet broadband connections for less critical or time sensitive data. Other network technologies such as 4G cellular data or satellite can be including for redundancy and
back-up. By combining multiple WAN links with differing characteristics, SD-WANs can provide higher reliability and performance than a single network, while reducing costs by sending the majority of the traffic over Internet tunnels. Many SD-WAN products then layer on WAN acceleration techniques such as data compression and deduplication to optimize application performance while reducing bandwidth requirements.

SD-WAN controllers consequently employ highly complex algorithms to decide which traffic to direct over which link and when to switch traffic from one link to another. These algorithms are proprietary to each vendor and can vary considerably. Products also offer markedly different level of functionality, application acceleration capability, product maturity, and cost. It is therefore imperative for SD-WAN vendors to test their algorithms under realistic customer network conditions, and for SD-WAN buyers to compare products under conditions that match their own network to select the optimal solution for their needs.

WAN emulators simplify the testing and evaluation of SD-WAN systems by replicating real-world network conditions to allow the systems to be tested in the lab in a repeatable, realistic network environment.