Reprint of article that originally appeared on the PACT site, written by Greg Black, Senior Account Manager, Premier Technology Group

WAN connectivity has transformed from Frame Relay to MPLS to today’s newest hot topic…SD-WAN. At Premier Technology Group, we are asked about SD WAN frequently in our client meetings. Here is an insider’s guide to what you should know about the latest trend in WAN Edge Infrastructure technology.

There are many benefits to rolling out a SD WAN network during your next network refresh which include Cost Savings, Business Flexibility as well as optimizing cloud architectures.

Cost savings is always a big benefit and comes up quite a bit in our line of work. Internet connectivity is widely available across most geographies. Many DIA (Dedicated Internet Access) and Broadband options such as fiber, ethernet (or even wireless) are easy to procure and deploy. More importantly, they are more cost effective when compared to a complex MPLS network. This brings up another point, complexity adds time and the need for skill which also drives up cost. Overall limiting the need for MPLS creates cost savings.

SD WAN also lends a hand to business operations with flexibility in deployment. Many SD WAN solutions come fully configured. There is no need to send an IT staff member to a branch location to help test and deploy MPLS nodes. It also eliminates the time and resources needed to configure the routers required at each end of an MPLS network. Also, by using easier to deploy internet technologies like broadband, the time needed to deploy a location is drastically cut down from months to days or hours. All this making life much easier for IT staffs that are already overtaxed and underfunded.

Optimizing a business’s cloud architecture is also a huge plus. SD WAN eliminates the backhaul of traditional MPLS networks called the “Trombone Effect”. Instead SD WAN uses DIA to provide a similar level of performance and security when connecting from branch to cloud or HQ to branch. For instance, the movement of enterprise traffic from the company owned date center to the cloud, with that change comes the need for a different architecture that provides visibility to application performance to cloud platforms. Which also bringing those cloud applications closer to the edge and easier for your users to engage. These are just a few of the more important benefits.

SD WAN deployment options

Now this is where preference as well as situation come into play. We help companies all the time to decide what may be the best choice for their business during this part of their SD WAN journey. Mainly because there are numerous ways to deploy the technology. Some of the options out there today include traditional ISPs that are afraid of losing their MPLS wallet share. They are going to market their own versions of SD WAN to try to retain their clients anxious to test the waters. There are also companies that are solely “managed” SD WAN providers that will deploy and manage the equipment and/or cloud for you, all you need to do is “bring your own” bandwidth. There are also some IT orgs that currently manage their own routing equipment and do not want to give that control up, thus they decide to deploy their own SD WAN equipment and manage the solution internally. All can be good options and really depend on business preference. Premier Technology Group can always help with the decision as well as the sourcing of the vendors when you get to that point.

If venturing out and starting your first look into SD WAN, here are some deployment gotchas to consider when making your choice in the proper SD WAN vendor. Below are some items that really should be included in any offering:

  • zero touch provisioning
  • can measure latency and packet loss
  • ability to reroute application flows based on granular network performance
  • Encryption and segmentation as well as advanced security services included
  • Visibility into the entire network from a single pane of glass

In closing, SD WAN is gaining more and more ground in business infrastructures. Gartner notes that by 2021, more then 65% of WAN edge infrastructure refresh initiatives will be based on SD WAN vs routers. Adoption of cloud managed network by businesses of all sizes has been doubling on average every two quarters. This points to a massive jump in adoption in a relatively short period of time. The question to ask now is not if you will adopt SD WAN technology but as to when and how.