Making Sense of SD-WAN Options

You’ve heard that software-defined wide-area-networking or SD-WAN is growing at a tremendous pace – and for a good reason. The adoption of the technology has skyrocketed in our era of always-on connectivity fueled by the cloud and wireless broadband, and our growing branch office connectivity needs. The basic premise is that SD-WAN architecture provides a networking foundation that is centrally managed and deploy compared to legacy WANs. That’s because SD-WAN services move the controller layer to the cloud to reduce recurring network costs and deliver network-wide control and visibility. Network operators can leverage software-defined networking to provide services across multiple connections, including MPLS, DIA, LTE, or broadband. SD-WAN is the aggregator, and it can make inexpensive internet connections private, more secure and highly scalable. It can also provide cost savings compared to MPLS-only connections of up to 50%. You could say that SD-WAN, which has been hyped for years, has become a mature technology and is starting to reach its full potential. IDC expects SD-WAN sales to grow at a staggering 69 percent CAGR, reaching $8 billion by 2021. (Source: Fierce Telecom).

Getting smart about your options

SD-WAN is also maturing in the way the technology is being sold and delivered. While there are still dozens of DIY (do-it-yourself) SD-WAN solutions that are sold directly from technology hardware manufacturers, there is a growing appreciation of managed SD-WANs. Doyle Research suggests that worldwide managed SD-WAN services are expected to grow to $10 billion by 2022. (Doyle Research). A managed SD-WAN scenario helps organizations get around the challenge of selecting, installing, and provisioning multiple transport links to distributed branch offices. Managed SD-WAN often enhances the benefit of SD-WAN systems because the provider delivers continuous monitoring and expert provisioning across the network. Providers can make real-time adjustment remotely to increase operational efficiency and optimize network performance. Because providers use a cloud-based network management system, they can also ensure fast site deployments and maintenance that can reduce the workload for internal, on-site IT staff.

What about co-managed and hybrid SD-WAN?

In many cases, managed SD-WAN services are delivered by cloud service providers (CSPs) who take care of a customer’s ‘last mile’ connectivity needs while also providing services like segmentation, security, other virtual network functions. Service providers, such as AT&T, CenturyLink, and Verizon, offer both managed SD-WAN services and different types of SD-WAN hybrid services. These providers use their network facilities for at least one WAN link, while other managed SD-WAN service providers provision WAN connectivity from a third-party provider. In the co-managed SD-WAN scenario, organizations benefit from the flexibility to ‘self-manage’ their application and security policies – and a Managed Service Provider (MSP) manages the overall connectivity, looking at it from a customer experience and network performance standpoint using SLAs. In this example, an MSP is generally in charge of procuring WAN transport and equipment, performing, initial configuration, and troubleshooting the equipment. The customer, in turn, creates policies for groups of applications and provisions new applications as needed. Internal, IT teams can remotely configure their SD-WAN service through an online portal setting up policies based on their business requirements. This SD-WAN setup may be attractive for organizations that want to create rules for certain groups of SaaS applications – such as their UC system, without requiring the MSP to intervene.

There’s also an option for remote sites to be bridged into an organization’s existing MPLS network to bring all sites together as one hybrid WAN network. Some experts believe this is an ideal fit for MPLS customers who are already in long-term carrier contracts, and remote sites are using VPN tunnels. This option can upgrade performance and management for remote locations, using a secure bridge that connects them to all other MPLS sites.

What’s next?

Whatever SD-WAN flavor you choose, it’s clear that SD-WAN can simplify network operations and the delivery of WAN services to the branch office using software and cloud-based technologies. If you’d like help sifting through your options for SD-WAN, from DIY, managed, co-managed, and hybrid, talk to Telapprise today! We can help you get a better sense of the challenges you might face during deployment and guide you on the best appliances and managed service offerings for various scenarios.

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