SD-WAN Benefits: More than Eliminating MPLS

Most of the discussion to date on the benefit of SD-WANs has focused on how an SD-WAN enables a network organization to reduce or eliminate its spend on expensive MPLS circuits. That is clearly an important benefit. However, as many early adopters of SD-WANs can attest to, SD-WANs have other important benefits.

I am going to use this blog to summarize an interview I recently had with an IT professional who is in the midst of rolling out an SD-WAN solution. As described below, the benefits of the new solution include better performance, better visibility and the reduced cost and complexity that comes from removing Cisco routers.

The Interviewee

I interviewed a director of information technology at a leading provider of technical product solutions for the automotive industry. The company manufactures electro-mechanic and electronic equipment. The company has twelve major sites located in five continents, has a work force of approximately 1,500 employees and has annual revenues of roughly US $500 million.

Prior to implementing an SD-WAN, the company had Cisco routers at each site, MPLS links into its larger sites and had site-to-site VPNs for backup at those larger sites. There were some locations, such as Tunisia and Indonesia, that didn’t have MPLS connectivity because it would have cost thousands of dollars per month at each site. One of the issues with the previous WAN was that in those sites that had multiple links in an active–passive configuration, the WAN suffered from slow failover from the primary link to the backup link as the network organization had to manually reconfigure the router whenever the primary link failed.

The Evaluation Process

One of the primary factors that drove the IT director to explore alternative WAN solutions was that the company decided to move from having an ERP system in each region to having a single consolidated data center and he felt the need to implement a WAN that had higher performance and availability than the current WAN. The director explored both managed SD-WAN and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) solutions from multiple providers. The idea of a managed SD-WAN solution was appealing to the company because adopting it would have meant no upfront costs. However, he explained that they rejected the managed SD-WAN solution because after two years it would have cost more than the DIY solution that they adopted. He also explained that they choose the Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN solution in part because it was less expensive than alternative DIY solutions, and in part because it included functionality, such as optimization, that the others didn’t.

The IT director conducted a three-month pilot of the Silver Peak solution in those locations where he had a strong IT staff. At the end of the pilot, the company began a tiered rollout of the Silver Peak solution. To date, the solution has been implemented in nine of the company’s twelve major sites. As part of implementing the solution, the IT director removed the Cisco routers and is now using the Silver Peak product as their WAN edge device. According to him, “Any time I can eliminate network hardware it makes my life easier.”

The Results               

The IT director is very pleased with the overall results of implementing the Silver Peak EdgeConnect SD-WAN solution. According to him, “I am impressed with how well the solution works. It works as advertised, which is a welcome change.”

The company doesn’t begin to implement its new ERP system until later this year so it isn’t possible to quantify the performance impact of the Silver Peak EdgeConnect SD-WAN solution on that system. However, the IT director is convinced that the Silver Peak solution has already improved application availability. According to him, when compared to their previous WAN the Silver Peak based WAN is “definitely more solid”. He went on the say that now when an MPLS link fails, the Silver Peak solution seamlessly fails over to the backup link which allows the company “to get product out the door.”

The IT director was also very pleased with the visibility that he now has into his network traffic. He stated that, “It’s unbelievable how much more visibility I have. I have reporting that I have never had before that enables me to track down rogue users and to isolate a device that is taking up too much bandwidth.” He added that not only does he now have great visibility but that “the visibility tools came at no extra cost.”