SD-WAN “Horses for Courses”

Written by Russell Crowley

When I hear the phrase “one size fits all” I shudder at the very fact someone has a predefined box they’re going to put me in. It might sound good to them – easier for them to sell, easier for them to scale, easier for them to support. But what about ME!? I’m the customer. I’m not that simple. I have needs. Maybe I’m high maintenance but so what, are you giving it away? No? Okay then I want something that suits me, and my business, and I want it to fit perfectly.

When it comes to SD-WAN, the problem you’ve got is there’s so much market noise from a) vendors scrambling for position, ramming it down your throat and each one telling you theirs is the best in class; or b) service providers who are only really interested in continuing to sell you MPLS and protecting the revenues they’ve had for years selling managed WANs that they too have now realised they need to jump on the bandwagon so add to the noise with their new, pre-packaged “SD-WAN…ahem…managed service”….that they now think you should upgrade to.

It’s highly confusing and not particularly helpful. And the simple fact of the matter is that they (SD-WAN solutions) are all different. It’s an overused phrase in IT but I’m afraid it really does depend what you need and not all solutions are equal.

Some are streamlined for Public Cloud usage, whilst others make the routing more complex to deploy. Others scale hugely up to tens of thousands of sites but in doing so end up sacrificing a level of flexibility. Some of the more premium solutions in the market include automated technology to protect and maintain application performance despite high levels of packet loss, jitter or latency (which we know is common over the internet). Whereas others are only capable of aggregating bandwidth and/or steering traffic down a different network link. Some solutions include native Next Gen Firewalling, others don’t, or offer service chaining with chosen FW vendors. Etc, etc, etc…I could easily go on but the point is, with so many fundamental differences (technically, operationally and commercially) how as an IT leader with limited time and budget do you go about searching for the perfect needle in big box full of very similar looking needles!?

Obviously, we can help, or I wouldn’t be writing this blog. But in keeping with true blog writing “modus operandi” I’ve listed some of the three things we think you should do when considering SD-WAN for your business.

  • Stop searching for an SD-WAN solution and find out what your business needs. Assess your current environment first off and understand what your new network investment must deliver to help you achieve your business objectives. This upfront work will help you hone in on the most appropriate solution for you and save valuable time and effort in the long run.
  • Get to grips with the commercials, quickly. There’s a common conception that SD-WAN will simply save you money but in our experience, it is more accurate to say SD-WAN will deliver more value. If for example you’re one year into a five year fully managed WAN contract… deploying SD-WAN ain’t reducing your bottom line. So, understand your commercial commitments, engage a partner and understand when / how to best time your SD-WAN investment.
  • Engage a technology partner that understand networks. “Of course he’d say this”, you may be thinking (well it is my blog!) but here’s why… networks can be complex beasts and sticking an SD-WAN box on the end of a broadband service won’t just paper over the cracks created in your underlying network foundations. Sophisticated routing and configuration can, in some cases, still be required to accommodate certain application traffic types or complex migrations and it’s highly important to get the right underlying connectivity in place from the start.

Hopefully that wasn’t too onerous, and I managed to get my point across which is that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to SD-WAN solutions.

It goes without saying, if you want to speak to one of our experts… just get in touch.

Russell Crowley
Commercial Director at Principle Networks