What flavor of SD-WAN is right for you?

What I’m not going to do in this blog post is to get into the weeds about the different providers. I would like to share some things to think about when your carrier says their SD-WAN solution is the one for you. My observation is that everyone is getting on the SD-WAN bandwagon. Yet, this is not an area where all services are created equal.

Here are some SD-WAN definitions:

  1. SD-WAN is an acronym for software-defined networking in a wide area network (WAN). SD-WAN simplifies the management and operation of a WAN by decoupling (separating) the networking hardware from its control mechanism. This concept is similar to how software-defined networking implements virtualization technology to improve data center management and operation. A key application of SD-WAN is to allow companies to build higher-performance WAN’s using lower-cost internet access. This enables businesses to partially or wholly replace more expensive private WAN connection technologies such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS).
  2. Software‐Defined WAN (SD-WAN), is at the leading edge of software‐based networking deployments. SD‐WAN offers significant business value for organizations with distributed branches in terms of business agility and the ability to leverage Internet bandwidth economics, cost savings. SD‐WAN uses software and cloud‐based technologies to simplify delivery of WAN services to branch offices. Software‐based virtualization enables network abstraction that results in simplification of network operations. SD‐WAN enables IT and business managers to deploy Internet‐based connectivity easily, quickly and with quality, reliability and security.

These definitions provide a good overview, but they don’t speak to the questions that need to be asked prior to implementing. Companies need to understand this is not like buying circuits; just wanting to find out who can provide the most bandwidth at the lowest cost. With SD-WAN, it’s really crucial to understand your organization’s priorities and then find a provider that aligns with those priorities.

For example:

  • If you are going to be running voice on your network or are exploring a UCaaS solution, it might be important to have your SD-WAN provider also be your UCaaS provider ensuring QOS for the voice traffic if possible.
  • If your network connects to the public cloud or both private and public cloud, having a provider that could allow you to measure end-user experienced application performance and enable application SLAs for cloud-hosted applications could provide huge value.
  • Are you planning on retaining your MPLS network or are you looking strictly for freedom and flexibility regarding IP circuits and your speed to deployment at a new location? Some SD-WAN solutions are limited in their ability to integrate with your existing MPLS network.

There are many other factors that need to be taken into consideration and having a trusted technology partner to walk you through the options is incredibly valuable. SD-WAN is a fantastic technology providing incredible opportunities. Just make sure you do your homework and don’t rely on your network provider as the only game in town.