A new model for Wide Area Networks (WAN) is emerging on the market that is making Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) less and less popular.
Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) is bringing benefits to the table that no other technology was able to do for large enterprise networks. It is enabling central control and visibility for traffic across datacenters, all the way to the far edges of the network. SD-WAN is very similar to how cloud networking works and how transparent it is but this technology is applied to the enterprise WAN network. Although SD-WAN is not a silver bullet for all WAN applications, it is gaining popularity and is being deployed as technology in many solutions.
In this report we will review the benefits of SD-WAN solutions coming from Telco carriers and dedicated service providers. We will also outline many important factors that will be crucial for considering new WAN solutions.
SD-WAN grew in popularity around 4 years ago, carrier providers decided to hop on the bandwagon and start to offer it as a service. The presumption of upgrading from MPLS to SD-WAN was suggesting benefiting from a whole new set of features that solve potential issues and inconveniences with typical MPLS technology. The innovation was underway and telco carriers didn’t wait long to add SD-WAN as a service to their portfolio while using their already deployed hardware where possible.
For many users that were already stuck with a telco provider, the easiest option was to add that to their plan but this was arguably the most optimal option. Telco providers had an easy time to deploy the service as they already had an infrastructure in place. The investment in new hardware was minimal which on the other hand resulted in suboptimal features that old devices don’t support. That is further compounded by the back-to-back agreements that telco carriers have with infrastructure investors and the return on investment they expect from the legacy infrastructure.
The experience shows that the SD-WAN solutions from telcos are not as flexible and cost-effective in the long term. This partly because of the old infrastructure utilized to enable the solution and that it takes a significant amount of resources to be run on their network not originally built for this purpose. The compromise to limit specific SD-WAN functionality may not serve the best certain users.
The options for MPLS in the past were predominantly telco providers as their networks were branched out the most. SD-WAN on the other hand has brought private competitors that emerge on the market as dedicated SD-WAN providers among other modern networking solutions. Telco providers also struggle to address new requirements from clients in an agile manner and deliver an updated configuration in a timely manner. Part of the reason is the rigidity of their solution to begin with and the old infrastructure it is running on.
There is no doubt that choosing an SD-WAN which a telco provider has its benefits. Just adding SD-WAN as a service to the plan and maintaining the same relationship with the vendor makes it attractive to stick with the same provider for using yet another service. The drawbacks however might prove to be costly and to lack flexibility in the long term.
Venturing out into an SD-WAN solution with a dedicated provider might not be an easy feat as well. Choosing the right provider could be difficult and significant research will need to be made.
A good provider should be easy to spot even by non-technical people. Any good provider will give a great overview of their solution, describe how it would work, outline the capabilities that are available for use, and provide a detailed pricing plan for using their solution. This is crucial for planning the new network functions and accounting for the costs that will incur.
This is also a great time to reconsider and revise any technical designs made in the past that are no longer optimal for the business needs. Any good vendor will offer an audit of the network and suggest improvements for achieving optimal performance. One of the greatest benefits of switching to a dedicated provider is the possibility of making some of the old infrastructure in place unneeded and be subject to decommissioning. This can slash monthly costs for services from the old solution that will be no longer needed. The new SD-WAN solution can be composed of a mix of different network technologies like broadband, MPLS, 4G/LTE to deliver optimal service.
Many SD-WAN solution providers are true experts in that domain and deliver top-shelf solutions that address the most difficult business problems in networking. The reason for that is simply because they have recently invested in new infrastructure that supports modern features. These solutions often focus on centralized management and users can take the reins themself to manage the network. The new SD-WAN solutions are very user-friendly besides the support from vendors already available.
Managed service providers help with alleviating most of the complexity around setting up the solution and all the connectivity needed to cloud applications in strategic places.
The flexibility of going with a dedicated SD-WAN vendor is giving users some options for deployment.
One possible deployment scenario is an on-premise or private datacenter where the customer will do most of the management and have exclusive control over the hardware and software.
Another solution is to be used as-a-service or in the cloud. The second option is taking the heavy lifting from the customer’s shoulders and offers more management and support.
SD-WAN solutions require special training for managing and maintenance but this is not more complicated than running a private MPLS network. Some companies prefer to keep in-house engineers specialized and skilled in SD-WAN while others go with the managed service model.
With a good SD-WAN provider, each option should be easy to migrate to and plenty of support should be available that will ensure a seamless process for the end-users.
Security is always a consideration across the whole solution and this no exclusion when it comes to SD-WAN networks. Devices engineered to support SD-WAN don’t have built-in security knobs that we can turn. That’s why providers or customers should think about an extra layer of technology that will address security considerations.
Any good provider will offer different solutions depending on the client’s needs.
In this report, we reviewed the driving factors that will be deciding for choosing a particular SD-WAN vendor over another. Armed with the considerations above, users should be able to make smarter decisions and have an easier time deciding how to approach the migration to SD-WAN.