Even as we navigate the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, SD-WAN adoption continues to accelerate at a breakneck pace. In fact, with fewer (or no) employees in branch sites for the time-being, some enterprises are accelerating deployments. Why? Many now recognize that WAN transformation is essential to realize maximum value from their existing and future cloud investments.
However, with 60+ vendors marketing and messaging around SD-WAN, it’s extremely difficult to sift through the noise and select the right vendor and the best SD-WAN platform for your organization.
While there are lots of criteria to evaluate, in this blog I’ll describe the top seven considerations to keep in mind when evaluating and selecting your SD-WAN vendor and platform.
- Ability to use any form of WAN transport: And this includes lower cost, consumer-grade broadband and still deliver thehighest application performance and availability – without any SLA tradeoff. This means that the SD-WAN platform must include the ability to overcome the effects of packet loss that occurs when internet connections become congested. It also means that the SD-WAN platform must provide sub-second, or even better, instantaneous failover whenever there is a WAN transport brownout or outage so that applications keep running – a phone call or video conference continues without ANY noticeable interruption. The ultimate objective is to achieve dedicated-like performance – like a leased line – even from shared transport services like broadband.
- Ability to simplify branch WAN edge architecture: An advanced SD-WAN platform can completely replace dedicated legacy routers, firewalls and WAN optimization devices by unifying all of these network functions in a single WAN edge platform. An added benefit to consolidating WAN edge infrastructure to a single unified platform is the ability to centrally manage ALL aspects of these network functions from a single orchestrator. However, some SD-WAN solutions still require multiple disparate management tools, and some SD-WAN offerings that only allow centralized configuration of basic functions but then require manual device-by-device programming using a cumbersome command line interface (CLI) for more advanced configuration and management. Be sure to evaluate this carefully and thoroughly.
- Automate everything through continuous adaptation: It’s easiest to define “continuous adaptation” with two examples. First, SD-WAN continuously monitors application and network performance and automatically adapts to changing conditions. This means moving traffic to better performing links if and when a brownout or outage occurs to always maintain peak application performance. Second, the SD-WAN platform must provide automatic, daily updates to SaaS application definitions and the TCP/IP address tables used to address them to keep pace with the ever-changing cloud.
- Rich end-to-end visibility and analytics, including alerting and reporting: And this needs to span across applications, the SD-WAN fabric and the cloud.Comprehensive visibility and analytics make it easier for IT to manage, monitor and administer the SD-WAN. It also enables faster resolution when problems occur and provides better insight to plan for future growth as the SD-WAN evolves over time.
- Rich ecosystem of complementary, best-of-breed partnerships: These include technology partnerships with vendors providing modern cloud-delivered security services such as available from Zscaler and Check Point, public cloud providers such as Azure and AWS, universal CPE vendors and more.The WAN is complex, security is complex and so is cloud infrastructure. The SD-WAN must provide the flexibility and freedom of choice to integrate with complementary solution providers rapidly and seamlessly to easily take advantage of innovations that arise to address new types of security threats as well as new cloud applications and technologies.
- Mature, enterprise-grade service and support: Your SD-WAN vendor should be able to provide follow-the-sun 24/7/365 support including a global network of spares depots with an automated RMA process to quickly and easily resolve any hardware failures.Even if subscribing to SD-WAN as a managed service from a top service provider, the underlying SD-WAN technology provider must still be available at any time to troubleshoot and remedy a Priority 1 issue should it arise.
- Proven history of delivering WAN innovation: WANs operate very differently from LAN or data center networks. Your SD-WAN vendor that has focused on the WAN understands the nuances of MPLS services, internet services, LTE, and even satellite and microwave – how they operate, how to overcome the effects of packet loss, latency and jitter. The vendor must understand the different ways of optimizing cloud connectivity to deliver the best cloud application performance.
By selecting the right SD-WAN vendor and the right SD-WAN platform, you can achieve the full transformational promise the cloud and SD-WAN.
- Increased application performance and availability to improve business productivity
- Enhanced business agility and responsiveness to accelerate time-to-market and competitiveness
- Simplified WAN edge architecture and management to achieve operational efficiencies
- Improved WAN security to reduce risk
- And finally, lower overall WAN costs
Be sure to watch this SD-WAN video series: Everything you should know about SD-WAN.