What to consider before hitting the SD-WAN open road

By Richard Arneson

Estimates vary (greatly), but industry analysts predict the market will clock in somewhere between $4.5 billion and $9 billion by 2022. Yes, that’s quite a variance, but whether it finishes at the high or low end, the growth is staggering considering it’s now just shy of $1 billion. Yeah, it’s big, and why wouldn’t it be? can provide significant cost savings, faster and easier location turn-up with automated authentication and configuration, higher speeds and more bandwidth. And because it can be centrally managed through Controller software, it’s far easier to manage security, control policies and compliance. Who wouldn’t want some of that action?

But before you dive in, there are a number of things to consider, and prepare for, prior to starting your SD-WAN journey. That path may look like the Yellow Brick Road, but, as Dorothy and her inept buddies found out, it can be rife with danger. But forget the witches and flying monkeys. This is the real world, where outages, unbudgeted costs, and losses in productivity and revenue are a lot scarier.

Following are a few of the elements to carefully consider prior to hitting the SD-WAN road:

Migration

It’s important to consider which sites to migrate first, the broadband service providers to use, application response times and which ones should be moved to the cloud, personnel needing to be involved, and how the overall experience of end users will be affected. In addition, think about how many physical appliances will continue to be utilized, which should be virtualized, and what a hybrid of the two (2) would look like.

Most Common Challenge

One (1) of the most daunting aspects of moving to an SD-WAN architecture concerns which vendor to use. Currently, there are almost fifty (50) from which to select, and that’s not to mention the SD-WAN solutions offered by most of the larger service providers. Ever hear of paralysis by analysis? Selecting the “right” vendor for your needs can cripple the collective heads of IT personnel. It’s a big decision, and one (1) you’ll be living with for awhile.

SD-WAN Pre-Deployment

Start with a baseline that takes into account your current environment. A journey begins with a single step, but that step can’t be taken until you know where to start. The current state of your network architecture should include an inventory of all assets, users, applications and network paths and connections. And consider how SD-WAN will play with your current infrastructure. Will a hybrid of the two (2) work—and how well?— during the transition?

Deploying SD-WAN doesn’t have to mean you’ll automatically bid MPLS a fond farewell. Maintaining MPLS and utilizing SD-WAN to augment it may be the best option. And consider how cloud services you utilize, or plan to, will get incorporated during the deployment.

Deployment―the first step

SD-WAN deployment needs to be immediately (or close to it) validated after cut-overs. Cut your teeth on a few smaller “pilot sites”, and learn from those experiences. This is the ideal time to analyze and verify that intended policies are being adhered to by the SD-WAN controller, and that applications are performing as intended. Again, learn from these pilot sites; doing so will help future implementations go more smoothly.

Ongoing Management and Visibility

If you thought one (1) of SD-WAN’s benefits is that you can simply set it and forget it, you need to wipe that notion from your mind. If not, you’ll hamstring your SD-WAN deployment. Even though SD-WAN controllers continually make policy decisions based on the network’s state and select dynamic paths for applications, that doesn’t mean IT staffers can kick back and play Fortnite. The state of the network needs to be continually monitored for policy exceptions; ignore this key component and applications’ performance will deteriorate.

Also, SD-WAN isn’t an island unto itself. It needs to interoperate with other areas of the network, and without insight into this, and how it’s impacting your organization, your SD-WAN deployment won’t deliver the desired results.

High visibilty to carefullyl manage an SD-WAN deployment is critical; it’s what will ultimately make it or break it. And from this, you can better understand the impact it is delvering and will continue to provide to your organization. If critical performance measurements are evaluated on an on-going basis, it will help with troubleshooting, proactive alerting and policy optimization.

Got questions? Call on the SD-WAN experts

To find out more about SD-WAN and the many benefits it can provide your organization, contact GDT’s tenured and talented SD-WAN Engineers and Solutions Architects. They understand the many factors that must be considered prior to SD-WAN deployments, including link optimization, broadband usage, network architecture and the impact of moving on-prem infrastructures to the cloud. And they work with a wide array of SD-WAN providers. They’ve implemented SD-WAN solutions for some of the largest enterprise networks and service providers in the world, and helped them optimize their ROI. They’d love to hear from you.

Get more SD-WAN information here, including: 

Dispelling the myths surrounding SD-WAN, 

How SD-WAN fits with IoT

Demystifying SD-WAN’s overlay and underlay networks

SD-WAN’s relationship with SDN, and 

Why the SD-WAN market will grow by 1200% by 2021

And to see how GDT’s SD-WAN experts delivered the perfect solution to a global software company, click here.