In 2018, SD-WAN is poised to go from a technological hype machine to an enterprise workhorse. SD-WAN is going to become ubiquitous, so much so that a nebulous “2.0” version of SD WAN is being prepared, with more emphasis on security and multi-tenancy.
As with every technological transition, there’s going to be a wave of late adopters. If you haven’t investigated SD-WAN yet, and are interested in the technology, there are a couple of potential pitfalls to work through. SD-WAN can solve many ills, but it’s not a panacea. There are certain problems that an SD-WAN deployment can’t fix right out of the box. Most importantly, SD-WAN can’t fix (and won’t be aware of) the problems underlying an obsolete, inadequate or poorly configured network.
You Can’t Turn Copper into Fiber
The basic premise of SD-WAN is that purpose-built WAN connections are slow, hard to maintain and hard to deploy. Commercial internet is cheaper and faster, and SD-WAN routing can make traffic over those connections private, secure and scalable. It also provides a cost savings of 50% vs. MPLS.
SD-WAN has largely fulfilled the promise of its hype, but nowhere does it make the claim that it will make your network “better.” Just as a quick example, much of the country still relies on DSL, satellite, municipal wireless and other networks that don’t approach the speed and reliability of broadband. SD-WAN can bundle those connections into a network, but it can’t turn copper into fiber.
Users Need Additional Support to Fulfill SLAs with SD-WAN
While there are ways to speed up and improve the performance of lower-tier internet connections, that technology—known as WAN optimization—has some issues of its own when combined with SD-WAN:
- SD-WAN does not offer WAN optimization. The latter is a separate technology that does things like compress packets, remove redundant data, and create data caches in service of making large networks feel smaller. WAN optimization is related to SD-WAN, but the two aren’t necessarily compatible.
- While WAN optimization isn’t necessarily a bedrock technology anymore, it’s crucial for those providing services that are dependent on SLAs. SD-WAN can’t guarantee that services in an area will meet an SLA, due to the variable quality of available internet connections. WAN optimization technology does have a limited ability to improve these connections, however.
- Lastly, integrating SD-WAN and WAN optimization can be a hurdle. SD-WAN won’t necessarily recognize optimized WAN traffic, which can defeat the purpose of optimizing it in the first place. Currently there are only two vendors that support an SD-WAN/WAN optimization bundle.
For service providers that are beholden to SLAs, WAN optimization is an important technology, allowing them to support clients that rely on SD-WAN. But because WAN optimization is not necessarily compatible with SD-WAN, service providers need other options. Even companies that aren’t service providers may need some additional guidance when setting up an SD-WAN deployment.
Overcome Other Limitations of SD-WAN
Recent research from Gartner suggests that companies who adopt SD-WAN should plan on just a three-year product lifecycle for early versions of the technology. For that reason, every company that purchases SD-WAN needs to work hard in order to maximize the ROI of the technology during that short period of time.
One problem that companies will run into is that while SD-WAN has diagnostic capabilities, they’re limited to the network itself. SD-WAN can only tell IT teams which connections are running faster—it can’t tell you why a connection is running slow, or whether it’s because of a poorly performing application, misconfigured network hardware or an ISP outage.
AppNeta gives users the deep diagnostic capabilities that they need to detect and mitigate these issues. You’ll be able to monitor multi-ISP connections from multiple points of view – including the point of view of your consumers and end-users. If your connection starts to wander outside the bounds of an SLA, AppNeta can ping you with an instant alert that lets you know where the problem is. Request a demo to learn more.