What Is SD-WAN?
SD-WAN stands for “software-defined wide area network” and is the technology that aggregates multiple Internet connections and dynamically selects the best path for traffic based on the real-time conditions of those links. SD-WAN vendors swear it is a game changer in how it allows organizations to rapidly, reliably and securely access applications in the cloud without needing dedicated pipes to enterprise data centers. It’s also considerably less expensive than MPLS.
While the definition may sound complicated, SD-WAN is simply an easier and more economical and scalable way for organizations to support ever-essential digital connections. Networks need to transmit different types of information from one user to another, such as voice, video and data. SD-WAN makes sure those transmissions happen uninterrupted without manual assistance so users experience high-quality, fast connections.
While WANs were the new technology a few decades ago, cloud and digital technologies required more. TechTarget says, “SD-WAN is an alternative approach to designing and deploying enterprise WANs. It aims to replace traditional branch routers with appliances that use virtualization, application-level policies and network overlays to make several consumer-grade Internet links behave like a dedicated circuit.”
SD-WAN vendors, particularly Managed SD-WAN vendors, are helping companies without in-house expertise by configuring and installing SD-WAN technology for them. Managed SD-WAN vendors often report a significant reduction in packet loss, near or 100 percent outage avoidance, and massive improvements in latency.
When SD-WAN is deployed across a network and properly managed and monitored, it is not only responsive to the needs of various applications, but it also optimizes network bandwidth, enhances network security, and scales easily as businesses grow without great cost. Organizations that invest in SD-WAN technology find they are better able to embrace the ever-expanding cloud capabilities with greater confidence. No matter how users access the Internet, whether that be from a mobile device, branch office, or anywhere else, SD-WAN will provide the appropriate connectivity.
Statista reports that flexibility, increased resiliency, and manageability were the primary motivations for organizations to adopt SD-WAN. Cost was further down the list, but also a driving factor, as many are looking to streamline costs as best they can.
Internet connections are much less expensive than MPLS connections. Cost savings depend on how many MPLS sites a company transitions to the public Internet, as well as how many vendors a company may be managing. It is impossible to determine precise savings until an experienced provider performs a full network evaluation.
While MPLS has its downsides, such as expense and scalability, many organizations don’t want or need to completely replace it with SD-WAN technology. Many SD-WAN vendors and experts, such as IDC, recommend augmenting the existing MPLS network with SD-WAN. SD-WAN complements MPLS by expanding its capabilities into a hybrid infrastructure. Some connections may be better suited for MPLS, while others will do well on SD-WAN. By consolidating vendors and choosing the right MPLS connections to transition to the Internet, companies can save costs while optimizing their network.
Why Choosing the Right SD-WAN Vendor Is So Critical
While flexibility, resiliency, manageability and cost savings are drivers for SD-WAN implementation, achieving these benefits is easier said than done. No matter what an SD-WAN vendor promises, SD-WAN is not a plug-and-play solution and should never be one-size-fits-all. Improper configuration can lead to high costs and project failure. Who you choose as your SD-WAN vendor makes all the difference in the performance and security of your network.
Of course, the specific technology matters, but what is most important is that the SD-WAN vendor gets the implementation right – the first time. A Managed SD-WAN provider will right-fit the technology and customize the implementation to your specific business requirements and existing network, particularly if you prefer a hybrid network that utilizes both MPLS and SD-WAN connections.
What to Look for in a Managed SD-WAN Vendor
Each Managed SD-WAN vendor will have its own SD-WAN providers it supports. You can go directly to the SD-WAN provider, but working with a Managed SD-WAN provider brings additional benefits.
A Holistic View
Unlike an SD-WAN provider who is focused primarily on selling their product, a Managed SD-WAN vendor is more interested in finding you the right solution for your unique business needs. They will take a holistic approach to your existing network, identifying trouble spots and opportunities to improve speed, security, availability, reliability, scalability and efficiency. From pre-sales engineering and project management to implementation support and Day 2 support with onsite engineering break/fix, your vendor should work with you throughout the process and beyond.
A Customized Solution
Being provider-agnostic is important to ensure you are getting the SD-WAN technology that is best for your business. While SD-WAN vendors have their favorite providers, they should still choose one that can offer the ideal solution that meets your business and technical requirements. They should also manage the various carriers involved in your SD-WAN solution, incorporating the best connectivity options across your network.
Communications networks are complicated. Unless you have dedicated, highly-skilled staff available 24/7, your network and your business operations are at risk. By partnering with a Managed SD-WAN vendor that provides ongoing monitoring and management, you can leave the management of your network to experts who are committed to supporting your business and keeping your network running around the clock. You can focus on your core business and let them manage your network.
As businesses operate in a more digital world, enhancing your network to support the various ways people work is crucial. Partner with an experienced and unbiased Managed SD-WAN vendor who can evaluate your existing network and business requirements before designing a customized solution that will scale as your business evolves. BCM One provides expert guidance on, and implementation of, a variety of managed technology solutions. If you are ready to simplify and optimize your communications networks, BCM One is here to help.