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Considering SD-WAN? Key questions to address before making the leap

By Nirav Modi, Vice President and General Manager, Blue Planet, Ciena | Feb. 8, 2017
How to make sure Software Defined WANs are right for your business

* What are the pitfalls? One of the major selling points with SD-WAN is you can avoid service provider lock-in by buying and deploying the components internally or working with multiple service providers. However, whether you buy or lease your WAN, it requires a deep understanding of the network. You need to understand what type of traffic traverses your network; you need to know what applications are preforming well and what needs to be changed or optimized.

There are several vendors and offerings on the market so you should consider the time it will take to research and select products, and if you have the engineering expertise required to build and monitor the SD-WAN. Also, you’ll need to determine what traffic you want to keep on your existing network and which you want to send over the internet. How should you configure traffic management policies? What security measures need to be implemented? Answering those questions requires a deep understanding of application performance, network security, and network engineering.

Another pitfall is to think of SD-WAN as a complete solution, rather than another tool in the toolbox. So, while SD-WAN may enable choice in access, it doesn’t give you full connectivity to the cloud. In other words, to connect from remote sites to cloud services, it is the combination of orchestration of cloud, WAN and SD-WAN access that completes the solution.  Orchestration allows you to coordinate and automate across different pieces of the network.  SD-WAN is an important part of how the enterprise access the WAN. The combination SD-WAN and orchestration provides that comprehensive solution for integrating the enterprise to the WAN and into the cloud. 

* Do I build it or do I buy it?  If you decide SD-WAN is the way to go, you’ll have to decide if you want to build it yourself or consume SD-WAN as a managed service. Each option has its pros and cons.  The key question is, just how critical the network is to your business? If you’re in financial services, you’ll answer that differently than your IT peers in the retail industry. When the network is absolutely critical to your business you probably want more customization. If your needs are more flexible, you can work with different “off the shelf” options.

When you take the “buy” route and get your SD-WAN as a managed service, someone else is owning and managing the solution, saving your operations staff valuable training and support time.A buy option also may allow you to take advantage of other resources that your service provider offers, such as  NFV-based firewalls or cloud connectivity, giving you a more robust catalog of managed services that might be hard to develop internally.

Building it out yourself, on the other hand, offers the ultimate in customization. You can develop the services that work for your business and can be infinitely flexible.


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