The first WANs were built to connect offices with terminals to mainframe and minicomputer systems. The design was simple: point-to-point connections from offices to data centers. Employees could access shared resources from this central database. This was eventually replaced with frame relay, and MPLS – intelligent packet-routing technologies that made WANs more efficient

In the 2000s, with the Internet exploding on the scene, many companies started using ISPs and cellular service as the underlying network providers for always-on and remote connectivity. This is when SD-WAN technology emerged. Software-defined wide area network is a virtualized, “overlay” network that abstracts the underlying network architecture.

Benefits of SD-WAN:

  • It consolidates networking, reporting, security, and management on a single platform.
  • Convenient and cost-effective as it can be overlaid on cheapest bandwidth available.
  • It reduces load on enterprise network by routing less critical data over public networks.
  • Cloud traffic can be routed directly to the nearest cloud instance, improving the user experience.
  • It is a self-managed technology.

However, there may be some challenges and risk factors associated with deployment, security, and quality of service. Awareness is important so that you can choose the right SD-WAN provider who can give the best solution to meet your needs.

Here are some common SD-WAN challenges and tips on how they can be offset.

1.  Choosing the wrong vendor

The proliferation of vendors in the market can be overwhelming and confusing, with a range of SD-WAN features available, each promising digital transformation. If you are planning to accelerate SD-WAN transformation, it is crucial to work with the right vendor.

IT teams may also face constraints due to network complexity and existing commitments, such as security vendor contracts not aligning with WAN service termination times.

Responding to the challenge:

  • Analyze user work flows within the business and focus on developing an end-to-end solution.
  • Plan ahead, keeping in mind business growth and capacity for the next decade.
  • Pick a vendor who offers flexible third party integration.
  • Use an expert who knows the market and can give customized recommendations.

2.  Not quantifying cost reduction

2. Not quantifying cost reduction

While reducing costs is one of the main drivers associated with SD-WAN it is hard to achieve without quantifying bottom-line savings. Different implementation aspects like feature consolidation, use of existing infrastructure and differentiating between critical and non-essential features is crucial for budget management. One also needs to factor in one-time implementation cost and its impact on ongoing cost savings. Cost-efficiency in day-to-day business operations may not happen until both the technology and its corresponding efficient working practices have been adopted throughout your organisation.

Responding to the challenge:

  • Procure local site-by-site internet underlay from the lowest-cost service provider.
  • Consider vendors that offer appliances with security and cloud vendor access built into their platform.
  • Differentiate between must-have performance features and nice-to-have ones.
  • Quality of service and Quality of experience can both be obtained by different feature combinations. The most premium subscription may not be right if your organization does not need all the extras being offered.
  • Feature consolidation with a single provider makes SD-WAN simpler to manage and use, improving cost savings in the long run.

3.  De-prioritizing SD-WAN security

SD-WAN does not come with in-built security features. Security is managed differently by each provider. There are several vendors that may not have a strong security system, but their marketing message will speak otherwise. However, they do boast about replacing the existing security functionality. If your system is lacking security capabilities, then you are simply exposing your organization to external threats.

The challenge with SD-WAN is that each security feature needs to be configured and deployed correctly depending on the specific requirements of each business. The IT team may face challenges while deploying services for specific business needs. The team needs to have expertise in understanding and delivering the right security policies.

 Responding to the challenge:

  • Take time to research vendor claims and available security functions.
  • Integrate existing security with the SD-WAN solution.
  • Replace or add new layers of security systems.
  • Integrate cybersecurity solutions by strategizing rather than separating networking and security

4.  Missing out on cloud access requirements

4. Missing out on cloud access requirements

It is good to focus on application performance while integrating SD-WAN into your current system. However, you need to remember that if the SD-WAN design has not been optimized for application behavior, then implementing it can prove to be an expensive mistake. All IT teams need to consider existing cloud infrastructure (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud etc.) and vendor capability in accessing this infrastructure.

Vendors usually fall in three categories in terms of cloud access:

  • In-built into the vendor’s architecture to connect branch office sites.
  • Vendor delivers to cloud via public gateways or private backbones.
  • Vendor makes it the customer’s responsibility to deploy to the cloud

Responding to the challenge:

  • Analyze internal application performance and deployment needs.
  • Evaluate service dependency on various microservice segments. This will decide your latency policies and bandwidth requirements in a multi-cloud environment.
  • Monitor application performance after implementation to take timely actions and prevent disruptions.

5.  Poor scheduling of SD-WAN

Without an implementation schedule in place, you could face costly issues while integrating SD-WAN technology. Application lag, lose of site connectivity and network disruption could affect business continuity. Without a backup plan in place, there is a risk of customer dissatisfaction due to unforeseen situations. Planning the order and schedule of integration is vital for business success.

Responding to the challenge:

  • Have dedicated staff to oversee end-to-end SD-WAN implementation.
  • Decide which sites will be rolled first and how that will be tested.
  • Plan for any training that may be required in advance.
  • Plan for post-implementation monitoring and management.

SD-WAN technology offers numerous benefits to organizations integrating it into their network architecture. It has demonstrated great value to firms by providing a flexible and quicker option for network transformation. It promises uninterrupted unidirectional measurement of traffic between any pair of locations.

In spite of this rapid advancement, IT teams need to follow best practices while implementing SD-WAN technology.  Bringing in an expert can make SD-WAN adoption a smoother and cost efficient process. Contact us for an initial consultation today and keep in mind that we never charge for our services!

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