Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) is the next generation of WAN technologies to provide connectivity between people and applications. The challenge with many organizations today is that applications and datasets are scattered across locations, data centers (private and public), and SaaS providers. Traditional WAN technologies are struggling to keep up with diverse connectivity needs for applications and users that are no longer confined to central data centers and branch offices. SD-WAN is being touted by many as a way to overcome these challenges while lowering costs and simplifying management. Some of the key benefits include:
1. Intelligent path selection removes the barriers of routing traffic based only on IP addresses. Traffic can move based on actual path performance aligned with application specific requirements.
2. Centralized management to lower deployment times and costs associated with monitoring and maintenance.
3. End-to-end encryption to protect sensitive data flows across public and private transports.
4. Local Internet offloading allowing branches to take advantage of high speed Internet directly at the branch instead of backhauling to a central site.
There is one more key, if not fundamental, benefit of SD-WAN that traditional carriers fail to mention. SD-WAN offers the ability to finally divorce carriers and their 140+ years of telephone company culture. A culture that limits their managed technologies to the bounds of their templates; takes them 90 days to implement new services; and locks customers into long contracts with limited flexibility. SD-WAN isn’t just an advanced failover technology combined with lower cost broadband and redundant carriers – many companies have been doing that for decades. SD-WAN is freedom. Here is how to position SD-WAN to take advantage of its full potential:
1. Maintain full control of the components that will provide your SD-WAN features. These could be routers, security appliances, virtual appliances, etc. You might outsource management of these services but keep them separate from the companies providing the connectivity.
2. Where uptime is critical, identify at least two transport options. This could be anything from fiber, copper, wireless, or cable. More options are becoming available everyday – even in rural markets. You won’t know for certain if they are dependent on a common backhaul until the day it breaks, which is why freedom is essential. Work with a company to locate the available options for your service areas and request they do the search as a fee-based arrangement. Many companies will offer this assistance for free, but in many ways are working for the phone companies and will align your options based on their kickback from the providers.
3. Negotiate contracts with shorter terms. Carriers want to lock you into a long-term contract with minimum revenue commitments. As bandwidth prices continue to decline and more transport options are becoming available, such as 5G or satellite, the last thing you want is a long-term commitment to bandwidth with little flexibility.
4. Negotiate more often. The separation of your network from the carrier network using the overlay capabilities of SD-WAN makes adding or removing carrier services easier than ever. Use this to your advantage to shop around more frequently and let your incumbent carrier know they will be shopped and that you are not afraid to migrate your services.
5. Buy what you need. Another key benefit of most SD-WAN offerings is the advanced reporting capabilities. Have a detailed understanding of your bandwidth requirements and application flows to avoid overspending on unnecessary bandwidth capacities. It is amazing how many companies buy the ultra-big bandwidth package for only a few dollars more and never utilize it. Those few dollars over many sites and months add up quickly. Keeping contracts aligned with actual bandwidth requirements means less income for carriers and more savings for you.
Beware the SD-WAN offerings that are nothing more than a Trojan horse with the ultimate goal of maintaining carrier transport revenues. If they can control the SD-WAN solution, they control which transport options will be connected to it and suddenly you’ve lost a fundamental benefit of SD-WAN.
If you want to experience true freedom though SD-WAN, contact the professionals at RSM to review your network needs and learn more about your options.