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Separate the hype of SD-WAN from the needs of your network

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05 July 2016

Mike Vincent

Blogs by author: Mike Vincent, Network Practice Lead, Professional Services, BT.

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SD-WAN can transform the way you manage your networks, but it’ll come at a cost if you fail to assess what your organisation actually needs.

SD-WAN — the best thing since sliced bread?

You may have heard the new buzzword in networks — Software Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN). It supposedly has all the answers to your problems. But there’s one question I’ve yet to see answered: how do you separate the hype around SD-WAN from the needs of your network?

It’s true that SD-WAN can offer you a number of advantages if you have large, distributed wide-area networks. But trying to nail down what makes an SD-WAN deployment successful is a tricky task.

It’s all about how you approach it.

At its most basic, SD-WAN is a WAN architecture that uses software to offer centralised management and visibility of your networks. This allows you to reposition, reinvent and renew those networks to help you reach your business goals.

As you can imagine, this means different things to different organisations. So how can you possibly make the right investment with the right partner if you don’t know what it means to you? The answer is to carry out an assessment of your networks. Only then can you work out the infrastructure you need to deliver a digital transformation.

How to avoid the hype and focus on what matters.

The key to making SD-WAN work for your organisation is to understand the challenges you face — and how your networks can help you overcome them. Here are just three examples of what you need to think about before adopting SD-WAN:

• How much will it really cost you?
 Many organisations expect SD-WAN to deliver cost savings of up to 20 per cent*, but these estimates don’t reflect the total cost of ownership. A hybrid WAN (mixing MPLS with the internet) can reduce monthly costs, but it can also lead to higher unforeseen operating costs.

Before making your move, you have to think about how you’ll manage disparate broadband providers, for example, and decide what it means for your mission-critical traffic and service level agreements. It pays to check all of your costs ahead of your decision on SD-WAN.

• How much do you need to change your deployment methods?
 When you add new devices, services or applications to your networks, it can take a while to configure them. And you can spend plenty of time troubleshooting any problems that pop up — slowing down your operations.

SD-WAN can solve this for you, but before you take that plunge, you have to know how much of an issue deployment is. Ask yourself how often you actually push new services to your different networks. It’ll prevent chasing a product feature that may not make a big impact on your operational efficiency.

• How does it fit in with your current operating model?
 Many organisations are shifting from a do-it-yourself (DIY) network approach to services delivered and managed by a third-party provider*. And these providers often offer some of the same advantages as SD-WAN.

How comfortable are you sizing bandwidth, managing services and creating policies? For an SD-WAN solution that meets your needs now and in the future, partner with an expert provider.

Get the assessment that offers answers.

SD-WAN can support the digital transformation your organisation needs. But to know what you want to achieve from changing the way you manage your networks, you need to take a step back first.

And to fully understand if SD-WAN is the right option for your organisation, you need to carry out a thorough assessment of your networks. This will answer the questions I’ve asked above and show you how to find a solution that matches your cost and operational requirements.

As with most things in life, getting SD-WAN right is about finding the solution that works for you, and you alone. And that means knowing exactly what you need before you buy.

Discover more about how you can assess your networks, and find an SD-WAN solution that meets your needs, with our Professional Services leading the way.

* IDC Worldwide SD-WAN Survey, Special Report, May 2016