What are the key questions that need to be answered when planning to deploy an SD-WAN alone or use third-party cloud services?
The implementation of the SD-WAN network begins with the decision to choose between purchasing a self-created system and a managed service. In each case, details about functions that are useful or unnecessary in the enterprise are important, such as microsegmentation, the ability to control data flows, the creation of service chains, or the application of an integrated security system based on the SASE architecture.
Before the pandemic, SD-WAN networks were a niche technology used mainly by large corporations. Their providers stressed that they are a good way to reduce costs and increase WAN flexibility by allowing data traffic between different branches to be managed directly over the Internet, instead of using expensive MPLS connections to the core data center and centralized traffic management. Today, SD-WAN has become a key element in enabling businesses where critical applications run in multiple clouds, where people work in different locations, and where remote access to applications needs to be fast, secure, reliable, optimized and automated. productivity.
It started with optimization
In recent years, SD-WAN technology has evolved from a simple WAN optimization to a comprehensive set of features that include basic routing elements, advanced network optimization, and application-aware firewalls, all managed from a single centralized console. With SD-WAN, businesses can replace multiple physical devices with a single device or virtual device, download SD-WAN software to a server at a branch or manufacturing facility, or choose a fully managed cloud-based service. It should be noted that SD-WAN is an important element of security of modern SASE architecture, and its implementation requires the use of this technology.
However, it is difficult to choose the right solution, because SD-WAN combines security, network systems, cloud services and mechanisms that provide high application performance. When reviewing or planning your application, it is important to know what the strategic decision points are and the key questions to ask software and hardware vendors or SD-WAN service providers.
SD-WAN is an obvious choice, not an implementation model
The decision regarding the SD-WAN application model is one of the most important decisions to make when planning the migration of an existing WAN network to a software-managed network. We have a choice of three of the most popular options: your own application, an application in a managed service model, and an application in a hybrid model (the service is managed by the provider and the buyer has the ability to make configuration changes for some features, such as security). In the case of the latter model, it should be noted that a key element is a clear definition of responsibility for the operation of the infrastructure so that in the event of a possible failure, it is clear which institution is obliged to rectify it. In the case of the first two models, the issue of responsibility is clearly defined.
We will take a closer look at the pros and cons of the two extreme options – compared to home implementation. Managed Service Procurement. Yes, self-migration will undoubtedly allow for faster reconfiguration, easier management of the migration schedule, and, finally, freedom in network development. Disadvantages include: the need to train a team to manage the service, the systematic implementation of appropriate security solutions, the acquisition of access lines and the application of quality parameters, as well as the constant expansion of knowledge about the opportunities offered by SD. – WAN technology is still constantly evolving.
The managed model means less flexibility due to the need to outsource configuration changes and the lack of complete control over the choice of devices and licenses offered by the service provider. On the other hand, significant advantages include the provision of services in accordance with specific quality parameters (SLA guarantees the operation of the final service), as well as cooperation with a partner who is responsible for both. service management and access lines. In addition, the supplier provides all the technological changes and updates that are of particular importance in the field of security.
The last question is how to finance the implementation and development of the network. In the case of independent start-up and management of the network, in most cases you need to take into account the large one-time costs (capex). In the case of managed service, we have a subscription model where costs are divided into monthly payments (opex).
So is it easy to decide which of the three models is better? Of course not. There are many factors to consider. However, there is no doubt that the managed model allows you to put the responsibility on external experts and focus on the basics in terms of the company’s interests, business activities.
In recent years, many companies offering solutions that enable the installation of SD-WAN networks have been acquired by the largest network infrastructure providers, and their solutions have been included in their product portfolios. For example, Cisco Viptela, VMware VeloCloud, Oracle – Talari, Palo Alto Networks – CloudGenix, HPE – Silver Peak, and Juniper – 128 Technology.
According to the Dell’Oro Group, the top five SD-WAN providers in terms of revenue in 2020 are: Cisco, VMware, Fortinet, Versa and HPE / Aruba / Silver Peak. These companies account for almost two-thirds of the total market, and Dell’Oro analysts predict future market consolidation. At the same time, in 2020, the value of this market segment increased to 32%, which proves that enterprises are increasingly feeling the business benefits of the application of SD-WAN technology.
Although the number of suppliers specializing in SD-WAN solutions is constantly declining, there are still many options to choose from. These include products offered by Versa, FatPipe, Cradlepoint or Nuage (owned by Nokia). In addition, Cato Networks and Aryaka provide a fully managed, cloud-based SD-WAN network, while traditional operators such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast or T-Mobile offer SD-WAN services managed using solutions from leading vendors.
The most important questions for SD0-WAN providers
Before submitting a request and compiling a list of potential SD-WAN providers, it is worthwhile to prepare a number of questions that need to be answered during an internal discussion of the project or during meetings with the manufacturer’s representatives or external consultants.
In the beginning, you need to determine What are the main business reasons for your interest in implementing SD-WAN? and how they relate to the supplier’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, if increasing security is one of the main reasons, it is worth giving preference to companies that have a certain position as suppliers of security tools. Conversely, if it is important to increase application performance, SD-WAN providers specializing in the development of WAN optimization mechanisms may be the best choice. If your business needs to install SD-WAN nodes in many places and as soon as possible, it’s a good idea to use a managed, cloud-based SD-WAN service.
How can you use your existing vendor contacts to make the transition to SD-WAN as cost-effective as possible? Many network vendors allow SD-WAN functionality to be added to existing branch equipment through software updates. If an existing MPLS provider learns that a company is considering giving up the service, it often sees that it can offer a fully managed SD-WAN deployment.
Self-implementation of the SD-WAN network requires capital expenditures, obtaining software licenses and continuous maintenance of the system. In addition, there are costs associated with the need to establish WAN connections with each branch of the company. But capital expenditures can be significantly reduced. Many SD-WAN equipment vendors offer network management or co-management options, and telecommunications operators typically offer these services. Management Services provides a transition from CAPEX to OPEX with a subscription-based model that provides flexibility to respond quickly to predictable costs and changing business conditions.
Can the product or service be integrated with the existing infrastructure and how? If the supplier has acquired SD-WAN technology by acquiring another company, it is worth checking how well the individual elements of the system are integrated. Is there a control console that controls all the functions of the SD-WAN? Is the SD-WAN all offered in one system, or are components such as a firewall sold separately? The SD-WAN system must work with the existing network infrastructure, application management and monitoring software, and security systems. If the company plans to implement ZTN (Zero Trust Network), it is worth checking whether it is easy to make appropriate changes to the SD-WAN system.
case, If SD-WAN has a cloud-based management platform, how can it be integrated with existing management systems?
Self-deployment or managed service?
The disadvantage of SD-WAN is the complexity and difficulty of the system itself. You need to remember the basic rules to be successful.
You must first map the WAN, analyze historical traffic patterns, and make a reasonable estimate of your current and future bandwidth requirements. Everywhere you go, you have to define policies for each type of traffic, starting with audio, video, data, and then switch to the program. Then, get two WAN connections for each location to optimize and maintain a low network failure rate.
Potential SD-WAN system providers should ask the following questions:
- Which training materials, system configuration instructions, etc. available?
- To what extent can the provider help determine the appropriate bandwidth levels and system requirements for each website?
- What are the software development plans and how often are software updates released?
- What are the support levels and how much do they cost?
Here are some key questions for managed service providers:
- Which SD-WAN equipment does the service provider use?
- In the event of a failure or poor service quality, how can you prevent possible disputes, regardless of whether they are caused by a network or an SD-WAN device?
- How many access points does the service provider have and do their locations correspond to the locations of the company’s branches?
- What is the visibility of the network shared with users?
- What types of alerts, notifications and reports do you receive?
- What types of SLAs are available?
Getting answers to all the questions helps to develop a project to modernize a good network infrastructure based on modern SD-WAN technology.