It seems that every day, there’s a new collection of software acronyms that are necessary to know. Further, some of these acronyms embrace additions, such as SD-WAN — and often acronyms merge with other acronyms, such as SD-WAN-NFV.

How can you get a handle on all these terms? Keep reading for an overview of SD-WAN, an explanation of makes it different from SDN, and a look at how NFV and VNF work together with SD-WAN.

What Is an SD-WAN?

Starting with the definition of the acronym SD-WAN. The “SD” stands for “software-defined” and “WAN” means “wide-area network.” Thus, an SD-WAN application refers to one that connects specific software applications to a wide-area network, such as branch offices and data centers. An SD-WAN connection network is especially helpful in moving proprietary software into a cloud, which can then be utilized by a satellite or branch office.

The cloud-sharing ability of SD-WAN has naturally generated a lot of buzz in the professional and personal world for its national and international reach.

The Difference Between SD-WAN and SDN

SD-WAN and SDN are similar in that they share the software design characters, “SD.” Both also were designed to update quickly, meaning any changes are easily accessible in the cloud for everyone connected to that network.

The difference, of course, lies in the details. As mentioned, SD-WAN is primarily used to connect networks that are not geographically close. SDN, on the other hand, is connected to a LAN, Local Area Network. LANs are designed for local, internal connections, such as across an office or on different levels within a building.

Further, the SDN network is easily programmable and modifiable by users on the network. SD-WAN users, on the other hand, rely on their vendor to prepare the network as well as make any changes.


NFV stands for “Network Functions Virtualization.” NFVs are an agreed-upon architecture that streamlines information sharing, facilitates operations, and simplifies compatibility and deployment as well as maintenance procedures. This is why so many people use a NFV with their SD-WAN network: Rather than providing users with too much information, the NFV presents only the essential components.


The acronym for VNF is quite similar and works in conjunction with an NFV. VNF stands for “Virtual Network Function.” Whereas NFVs constitute the architecture of the SD-WAN network, a VNF is what connects and protects the NFV-SD-WAN connection. Common types of VNFs are routers and firewalls.

It seems acronym-based technology changes by the day, and you can surely anticipate that there will be more vocabulary to learn in the future. However, until the next big data connection rollout, the detailed information above should ensure you can decipher the information you need now.

Scott Resnick
Scott Resnick is the President and Owner of Today's Telecommunications Industries, LLC (TTI) in Houston, TX. For the past 39 years, Scott has been instrumental in serving the telecommunications needs of some of Houston's largest and most influential companies. TTI is one of the largest NEC dealers in the United States. Scott is an avid baseball fan, loving father, husband, and a world traveler.