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    Categories Industry InsightsNetworking Technology

Make SD-WAN Choices With a Vision for the Future

Here’s a great recent look at the top challenges that IT teams are facing, courtesy of a survey done at VMworld. We’re not surprised to see that performance was named as the top challenge, with 38% of respondents choosing it. We hear daily about the pressures on IT to provide good performance, and the obstacles they have to clear to get it. Migration challenges and budget challenges followed closely behind for survey respondents, with 36% and 35% naming those, respectively. Cloud adoption rounded out the top four challenges at 27%. Of course, with complex, distributed infrastructures, these challenges often overlap, with performance and budget affecting every part of the enterprise.

For those enterprises with remote offices (which is an increasing number), software-defined networking (SDN) could be quite useful. SDN is starting to show signs of use in many situations where IT can’t keep bandwidth up to support all the devices and cloud-based applications in play. SD-WAN, of course, is the easiest choice for IT at the moment. Down the road, other software-defined technologies will emerge to meet branch office needs, so that all the tools needed at a branch office will be delivered with a single network platform. That may include the wireless LAN, Ethernet switching, SD-WAN, firewall and other functionality, all in one. However, the existing on-premises architecture and large SD-WAN vendor field means that this idea of an easily deployed and managed SDN branch office probably has a ways to go.

As SD-WAN adoption increases, the real, everyday challenges of managing it come to light. Some key difficulties include legacy hardware integration and visibility, plus traffic management. IT teams will have to consider how various SD-WAN vendors manage these issues, then decide how best to combine SD-WAN native management tools with other ones in use, like the MPLS or router interfaces. Security is an increasing concern, too, so that’s another area to plan when you’re implementing SD-WAN, one that some vendors are addressing already. And of course, the visibility element can be solved with modern monitoring—which we conveniently provide here at AppNeta.

Here you’ll find some more practical tips for choosing an SD-WAN provider, and what you can reasonably expect from these vendors at this stage. Look at network coverage and the transport options available in a product. It’ll also be necessary to find a provider with flexible and scalable SD-WAN architecture. This will involve looking at your own network infrastructure now and also making an overall plan for how it’ll look in five or ten years—or at least a vision for how it may look.

Connecting SD-WAN products to cloud services will be essential for branch offices. This story notes that vendor implementations currently vary quite a bit when you’re looking to connect to cloud. To connect to IaaS like AWS, for example, you could choose to deploy the IaaS’s instance of SD-WAN as a shared gateway running on its own virtual private cloud. Or, you could run the IaaS node on each virtual private cloud as its own gateway, and connect all those back to the SD-WAN. Then there are managed services providers that take advantage of their existing data center presence near IaaS providers, and moves cloud traffic to the SD-WAN nodes efficiently that way.

Till next week, make those technology choices wisely.

Christine Cignoli: Christine Cignoli is a technology writer based in Boston. She's written about storage, data center infrastructure, virtualization and enterprise apps for more than ten years, and has a master's in publishing and writing from Emerson College.