An SD-WAN reality check
SD-WAN, like all new technologies, comes with its share of industry hype. Separating the promise from reality is essential for any organisation considering this technology.
SD-WAN is a relatively new way of designing and deploying wide area networks. It is transport agnostic, able to move data across MPSL and broadband Internet links. It differs from other network technologies in its ability to provide application-based, rather than packet-based routing, which gives IT organisations greater control over their quality of service.
SD-WAN promises much – application reporting, zero-touch provisioning, centralised policy management and policy-based application routing, says Paul A Ruelas, director product management at Masergy.
Market research firm IDC reports that SD-WAN revenues are expected to exceed $6 billion in 2020’ A Kable Global ICT Customer Insight study of more than 2,600 enterprises across all regions shows that close to 60% plan to adopt SD-WAN within the next two years.
We recently concluded our own extensive, 2-year testing of several commercially available SD-WAN solutions and found that while SD-WAN is still evolving, it is a valuable, performance enhancing technology when applied appropriately.
In my view, SD-WAN is going to work best for larger, global firms with remote offices helping those customers gain improvements from their WAN. However, I also see the SME space being a usage case in the future, and still as a managed service. And, I could even see customised solutions being developed for specific industries.
What ever the business size, customers are typically only interested in an application’s performance and not necessarily on the details of how that performance is delivered. All the details become noise in the background. That has been our experience with our other Network Function Virtualisation roll-outs, and its going to be the same with SD-WAN.
Howver, there are some drawbacks to SD-WAN solutions. There are overhead issues associated with many of the capabilities that SD-WAN uses to make the Internet more reliable. And while many believe SD-WAN is less expensive than private networking, in some cases, it’s in fact costly.
Upload speeds may be constrained when using SD-WAN purely over broadband internet. Also, many customers will be using not just one or two broadband providers, but perhaps 20-30 globally and that’s a lot of connections to make. Setup and maintenance of centralised policy management and zero touch provisioning can be complicated. Its also worth pointing out potential issues with lack of interoperability standards can cause vendor lock-in; the are few standards in place, so its almost impossible to mix and match features from different providers.
While this isn’t limited to SD-WAN, but when implementing any new technology, there can be unanticipated execution risks and expenses that are inherently greater than with well-established solutions.
What’s the answer – take a gamble that SD-WAN is right for you, or wait until its more mature – but miss the option that SD-WAN provides in making maximum use of the bandwidth you’ve already invested in? My suggestion is to implement a fully managed SD-WAN solution to mitigate the risks and expenses associated with deploying any new technology on your own. Use the expertise of a proven service provider and avoid vendor lock-in.
Mike Sapian, principal analyst with research firm Ovum, agreed. “Hybrid networking and virtualised managed services, including new SD-WAN services, gives businesses many new managed services options to create agile networks. Businesses should seek service providers that deliver an integrated, comprehensive suite of hybrid solutions to achieve optimal price / performance.”
Masergy launched its own managed SD-WAN service in September 2016. Forming part of Masergy’s global portfolio of fully managed network functions, SD-WAN from Masergy offers the most advanced SD-WAN feature set on the market. The managed SD-WAN offering can support three deployment models, depending on a customer’s requirement including dedicated premise-based hardware, cloud and distributed virtualised software deployments. The service is built around Silver Peak System’s technology, although more vendor support will follow soon.
The author of this blog is Paul A Ruelas, director product management at Masergy.
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