Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is being increasingly adopted by organisations of all sizes due to its myriad benefits. Even during the challenging times of COVID-19, when organisations are running on significantly fewer employees, the adoption rate for SD-WAN deployment remains high. The reason behind this high adoption rate is the realisation of the critical value offered by transforming from traditional WAN to SD-WAN technologies.
However, SD-WAN deployment is not necessarily simple: if poorly integrated into the existing organisational structure, moving to SD-WAN may be fruitless. That is why the successful deployment of SD-WAN must be prioritised, keeping in mind the organisation’s goals. Out of 60+ SD-WAN service providers, it is challenging to choose the perfect platform and vendor. In the USA alone, 45+ vendors are providing services related to SD-WAN. After technical research in this newly emerging technology, we have arrived at nine considerations for assessing SD-WAN platforms. When looking for a managed SD-WAN vendor, keep these things in mind.
1. Deep domain analysis
As we know, SD-WAN is a relatively new technology, and there is a long way still to go. Nevertheless, the service provider should have a proper understanding of your existing systems and networks and knowledge about your application requirements.
2. Quality assurance through bug elimination
As the name suggests, Software-Defined Wide Area Network decouples networking hardware through software. All coded software has bugs associated with it. Therefore, it is necessary to evaluate how your service provider deals with those bugs, how they are identified and resolved, and what quality assurance processes are in place.
3. Security assurance
This is a key feature to prioritise. Security is provided according to the customer’s demand and choice, which depends on the type of services the organisation provides. Some vendors offer security packages related to encryption, Intrusion Detection System (IDS), Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), Distributed Denial of Services (DDOS), and unified threat management. Threat intelligence capabilities are also offered by some providers. The need for such security measures varies. Therefore, make sure you understand what security measures are important to your organisation, and confirm whether or not these are offered by the vendor in question. For example, suppose you need to analyse the traffic on your internet backbone to track attacks as they happen or sometimes before they happen. In this case, you must go for an SD-WAN supplier who offers threat intelligence capability.
4. Partial migration choice
Many organisations go for partial up-gradation of some local branches or a single branch for field trials (PoC), before going for a fully upgraded system. This also helps in managing the change and adapting accordingly in a sequential manner. Look for a service provider who offers deployment flexibility according to your timetable or requirements.
5. Multiplicity of available options
There are multiple vendors with multiple technology choices for SD-WAN. These multiple platform options are designed following the deviation in requirements of different enterprises. It’s best to go for a vendor who offers multiple platforms, including the one which best suits your needs. Make sure that your vendor has sufficient expertise and a thorough understanding of your chosen option. A short time supply of engineers with SD-WAN experience should also be considered.
6. Provision of any form of WAN transport
Your service provider must have the ability to engage with any form of WAN transport for any possible breakout or failure of the connection. As we know, in cases of congested internet connection, packet loss may occur. To avoid this, your SD-WAN platform must provide a sub-system in case of break-over of the WAN transport to keep the applications running.
7. Simplified and unified WAN edge architecture with minimal complexity
There are multiple SD-WAN providers. Some provide a unified and simplified version of the solution that can easily replace traditional WAN optimisation devices, routers, and firewalls into a single WAN edge platform. Consolidation of WAN edge network into a unified structure helps to manage and control all the network functions from a single central orchestrator. On the other hand, some SD-WAN solutions only provide centralised configuration of basic functions; further advanced configurations require Command Line Interface (CLI) for device-to-device manual programming. Before choosing a vendor, consider whether simplistic unified WAN edge architecture or multiple disparate management tools best suit your end goals.
8. Being able to automate continuous adaptation
Your SD-WAN solution must be updated with continuous adaptation for high quality performance. It should be able to adapt to changing conditions by continuously monitoring network and application performance. For example, if a brownout occurs to a specific link, it should move the traffic to the other better-performing link by continuous monitoring for applications’ high performance.
9. Best Support and Services
Your SD-WAN provider must be mature enough to provide back-up support and services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days of the year in any case of hardware failure or system crash. Your SD-WAN technology provider must be there to troubleshoot the failure at any time, without any inconvenience. This will make your back-ups strong and services reliable for your customers.
By keeping in mind all these considerations, you can choose the best SD-WAN service provider for you. Remember that the best SD-WAN platform can provide any or all of increased application performance, improved business productivity, operational efficiencies, simplistic WAN edge architecture, increased security, reduced risk, and reduced overall cost.