SD-WAN Buyer’s Guide Part 2: Exploring the Potential Functional Benefits

Joel Stradling – Research Director, Business Network and IT Services

Summary Bullets:

• Many enterprise IT departments find their current WAN solutions unwieldy when it comes to adding, or reducing, the number of connected sites. SD-WAN solutions should provide greater agility for turning up new branch sites.

• Service orchestration and a single-pane online tool for managing circuits and path-selection for critical apps also give greater functional agility.

SD-WAN services are becoming more widely available across the globe, with large global and smaller regional service providers increasingly including various SD-WAN options from within their portfolios examples include AT&T, Masergy, Colt, CenturyLink, Tata Communications, and NTT Communications. In parallel with such activity in the operator community, there are dozens of SD-WAN platform developers in the market, such as Nuage Networks (a Nokia company), Versa Networks, VeloCloud, and Viptela. The landscape makes it confusing to understand which type of SD-WAN supplier to work with, and thus businesses need to conduct conversations with several vendors from the categories above before making a choice. One theme remains constant: enterprise clients need to understand the network transformation path they intend to take in order to achieve a robust SD-WAN overlay. IT department heads can look at the functional positives that SD-WAN may bring and line these up with requirements.

Two main functional benefits of SD-WAN solutions, and vendors should be challenged and asked how these can be delivered, include greater agility compared with legacy WAN services for adding and removing sites and more agile control of bandwidth allocation for applications, including for IaaS and PaaS. Businesses that are growing through aggressive M&A often need to integrate new office locations spread across various geographies with the existing corporate WAN as quickly as possible, and SD-WAN should help enable such integrations far more rapidly than with older VPN technologies, without the error-prone need for writing out entire tables of command line interface (CLI) scripts per site. Secondly, SD-WAN management tools extended to the enterprise, or used by the supplier’s technicians in a fully managed service, should provide effective management of bandwidth and traffic priorities per site and per application through a single SD-WAN controller and management pane. Again compared with traditional bandwidth slicing and dicing, the dynamic path selection including over public cloud hosted applications makes this process far more functionally efficient.

Finally, IT departments should inquire which virtual network functions (VNFs) are available, since several previously physical appliance-based network additions such as firewall, WAN optimization, and acceleration, are gradually becoming more widely available as virtualized software applications, meaning reduced on site installations of kit and again simpler provisioning, deployment, and on-going configuration management.

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