SD-Branch and SD-WAN: Understanding the Differences

Technology buyers at multi-site organizations have a wealth of choices when it comes to network and security vendors, programs and support.

One popular option that many teams are currently evaluating is “software-defined” network management technology known as SD-Branch and SD-WAN. It should come as no surprise that there are advantages and benefits to both, best use applications for each, and notable differences between the two. 

Here is a breakdown to help navigate these options.

How are SD-WAN and SD-Branch related?

SD-WAN, which stands for software-defined wide area network, controls connectivity, management and services across remote offices and the cloud.

One of SD-WAN’s greatest assets is its ability to manage multiple connection types and then segment and secure traffic across the enterprise, including multicloud connections. Many organizations replaced MPLS with SD-WAN to save on cost, but also because MPLS tends to choke when routing traffic between branches and the cloud. 

SD-Branch is an innovative iteration of SD-WAN, offering a new layer of efficiency and security-focused capabilities. SD-WAN gained popularity as businesses began operating with cloud-based technologies. Its approach to streamlining network traffic saved time and money. SD-Branch has taken the baton from SD-WAN and accelerated efficiencies, particularly for distributed organizations.

What sets SD-Branch apart from SD-WAN?

SD-Branch, by virtue of its name, is optimized for use by organizations with branch offices. The biggest differentiator between the two network options is the fact that SD-Branch acts as an overlay or extension of SD-WAN.

SD-Branch consolidates multiple functions that normally run independently into one platform, improving the user experience, increasing efficiencies and bolstering visibility across the network from one single pane of glass. Where SD-WAN focuses on the transport of data across the network, SD-Branch elevates the control beyond the transport to include network functions. 

SD-Branch Use Cases

SD-WAN helps connect remote sites to the network, manages network traffic and creates cloud-based connections. In situations where automation, visibility and control also are critical for enhancing security – particularly across branch offices and endpoints — SD-Branch may be the best bet.

If cost is a factor, SD-Branch also checks that box. It is with that in mind that one of the optimal use cases for SD-Branch is when distributed organizations need to launch new IT environments at branch locations. Updates can easily be shared and entirely new connections can be launched remotely, without the need for costly in-person support.

In conclusion

Overall, it may be easier to consider the SD-Branch and SD-WAN network options as multitools ideal for certain situations. Distributed organizations requiring greater visibility, for function and security, may benefit more from an SD-Branch network infrastructure. SD-WAN can be viewed as the earlier iteration of SD-Branch, allowing organizations to reduce complexity and cost, improve uptime, and scale branch networks.

Structured is an award-winning solution provider delivering secure, cloud-connected digital infrastructure. Since 1992, Structured has worked with clients through all phases of digital transformation, bridging people, business and technology. Learn more at