Many enterprises are considering switching to software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) services to make their networks more agile, more configurable, and in many cases, to optimize transport costs over MPLS-based WANs.
SD-WANs offer several potential benefits. They allow businesses that are struggling to meet ever-increasing bandwidth demands to quickly provision more network capacity and coax the performance they need out of their WANs, instead of waiting 30 days or more for their MPLS services to be reconfigured. SD-WANs can also give businesses a more economic on-ramp to the cloud-based services that many are migrating to and help companies secure communications to their business-critical applications that reside both on- and off-premises.
However, the addition of SD-WAN technology can come with speed bumps on the road to adoption. Networks are complex, and adding new technology to an existing network, or replacing the legacy network, can be a laborious and complicated process that many businesses aren’t equipped to handle on their own.
In many cases, there’s a significant cost and time sink involved with adopting SD-WAN. Businesses must also shift to new network management procedures and adopt new network monitoring tools. Sometimes, the business may incur costs related to ending its current contract covering legacy networking technology.
Here are three ways that companies can simplify the process and reduce the risk when adopting SD-WAN technology:
1 – Know what you’re trying to achieve
Companies should know what outcomes they’re hoping for before beginning the process of adopting SD-WAN. One potential SD-WAN use case could be to provide a more efficient route to cloud services, or maybe the company wants easier network configurability. Whatever the reason, it’s essential to have a business outcome in mind before evaluating SD-WAN platforms.
It’s possible for a company to be unsure about the exact outcome they want to achieve. And it’s very easy for engineers to get excited about technology for technology’s sake, forgetting that it needs to help drive a particular outcome, like more efficient access to the cloud. In this case, the new tech may end up being used minimally, or perhaps completely cast aside.
The same can happen with SD-WAN. If a company is considering it as a simple replacement for MPLS services, without exploring the new feature set, it’s likely to be disappointed with the results. SD-WAN adoption will be more impactful in terms of driving a positive outcome if implemented as a step in the process of an organization’s WAN transformation rather than a technology upgrade. Be sure adopting SD-WAN maps to your business strategy to ensure it will help deliver the desired outcome.
2 – Consider your internal resources before moving forward
SD-WAN is unlike other infrastructure technologies. It will not simply be a “set-it-and-forget-it” endeavor. The new platform will need consistent monitoring to achieve the right outcomes.
In many cases, an SD-WAN vendor is there to sell a product but is not as well equipped to make the product work with a company’s existing network to deliver desired outcomes.
The right partner can help SD-WAN adopters with the methodology to figure out where they want to go. They can help clients develop the business case, choose a platform, and design the platform. As carpenters are fond of saying, measure twice and cut once.
A good partner can also make sure you’re getting all the capabilities you need in SD-WAN. In many cases, client companies are trying to do more with less, and they may not have the expertise or the staffing needed to configure and manage SD-WAN.
In addition, many adopters often think of SD-WAN as a replacement for MPLS, when it’s more of an expansion than a transition. In many cases, companies will still use some MPLS services. A systems integrator can walk a company through the transition vs. expansion issues.
The right partner can also help clients understand what’s going on inside their legacy networks. It’s a common story: A lot of organizations running legacy IT systems have built up so much infrastructure over the years that they don’t know exactly what they have anymore. It’s no different with networks, especially with mid-sized companies that don’t have a huge networking team to manage their infrastructure.
A systems integrator can put a thoughtful methodology in place for SD-WAN adoption. Whether it’s a transition or an expansion, adoption is more than a simple refresh.
3 – Embrace managed services
Most companies, as they try to do more with less, don’t have huge networking teams in place. For those that don’t have their own network operations center, using a provider to manage their SD-WAN service will make a lot of sense.
With SD-WAN, organizations have access to a plethora of new features and functionality, which need to be properly configured based on the differing needs of an organization’s sites. One of the great benefits of SD-WAN is that it allows organization’s the ability to “right size” their WANs. Given that managed services providers have a vast amount of experience and expertise, they are often best positioned to assist organizations with this transition.
Managed services providers can also deliver continuous improvement throughout the lifecycle of the products. They can tweak the SD-WAN platform constantly to meet the needs of the client organization. They will have SD-WAN expertise that in-house networking teams working on legacy networks probably won’t have. That being said, the right MSP will be able to work with an organization’s existing team in a collaborative manner to ensure the intimate knowledge of the existing team doesn’t get lost in during transition.
When evaluating MSPs, companies should consider any past experience or recommendation carefully. Some legacy managed services providers that focused on traditional WAN services will try to manage SD-WAN in the same way. The legacy approach to WAN management may not provide clients the advanced features and services they initially looked to take advantage of.
And what would be the point of adopting SD-WAN if without access to the robust new feature set?
Learn more about simplifying your SD-WAN adoption and future proofing your network here.