6 Tips for Better SD-WAN Adoption
by July 25, 2017

Filed under: Industry Insights, Networking Technology

Emerging technologies are making it easier for IT teams to manage the remote offices under their control. SD-WAN deployment is growing quickly, and so are remote locations, which are increasingly a part of many distributed businesses in a whole variety of industries. At its simplest, SD-WAN pairs multiple existing networks and routes their traffic depending on network health or specific traffic-based logic set by IT.  

One recent survey finds that 83% of enterprises are increasing their number of WAN-connected sites. The top reason for those users in choosing SD-WAN is to enable the cloud-based network and security they are familiar with when transitioning from traditional MPLS circuits. Makes sense: So much of enterprise IT is now cloud-based, and the network often lags behind. Another analyst survey found that 49% of networking professionals are considering or piloting SD-WAN, while another 18% have already deployed it.

SD-WAN is just one tool in a new arsenal that IT networking teams are building. With the onset of cloud computing and SaaS applications, there’s a lot more happening in the typical enterprise network than five or ten years ago. You may have managed just one in-house network then, with devices connecting to that one network as needed. Now, there are multiple networks in play, including the LAN, WAN, SD-WAN, MPLS, WiFi, internet and SaaS or cloud provider networks. SD-WAN can take a lot of the network management burden off IT, which is especially useful at remote sites.

SD-WAN is the first step for many businesses into a software-defined network and infrastructure. The knowledge and skills you gain in this project will likely serve you well through a bigger digital transformation. (No pressure!) Try these tips for a successful SD-WAN deployment.

What to Remember When Adopting SD-WAN

  1. Add up the costs first. See how much you have to spend on SD-WAN, based on budgets and approvals. And make sure you can spell out how much it will save vs. how much it will cost up front to avoid surprises with higher-ups. Consider what percent of that cost you would pay to ensure that it’s running via monitoring.
  2. Vet the vendors. This is an emerging market, so do your research. The MEF industry association recently released a lifecycle service orchestration framework and open APIs in an effort to create standards around SD-WAN APIs. This may be useful as you’re thinking about integrations, now and down the road. Look at SD-WAN vendor SLAs, too, to see what you’ll be responsible for after implementation and what avenues are available to ensure good performance.
  3. Choose the right configuration. Think about whether you’ll choose SD-WAN or hybrid WAN or a combination of both. You can also decide how much MPLS vs. internet is needed for your particular office needs. Consider current and future employee requirements, and also IT needs, such as whether the SD-WAN technology you buy is ready for IPv6, or whether on-site IT resources will be needed for deploying SD-WAN at those remote offices. Also, keep in mind current, related tools like WAN optimization and if you’ll keep, toss or reconfigure any of those.
  4. Consider your hardware. Yes, all of this virtual, software-driven technology has to run on real hardware. Some considerations you might encounter with SD-WAN are whether you’ll use your own virtualized servers on commodity hardware, or go with the vendor’s hardware.
  5. Think of the users. Ideally, this work to adopt SD-WAN will give good results in the end-user experience department. Look at whether SD-WAN will create changes that users will notice, for good or bad. For example, if SD-WAN negatively affects the last mile of WiFi or LTE, users will notice. The details of each SD-WAN product could have a big impact, so know what you’re buying.
  6. Pay attention to your SLAs. As with any cloud provider or SaaS vendor these days, the SLA rules in case of any dispute or confusion. Take the time to read the vendor SLA, and also decide up front whether you’ll prioritize the SD-WAN SLA over other SLAs, like those of the WAN or MPLS provider.

Finally, remember the limitations of SD-WAN. It can add efficiency and boost performance, but it’s not a silver bullet—it can’t see application context for network traffic to route traffic that way, and can’t guarantee that purchased redundancy through multiple ISP connections are always live.