How to Choose a Partner for Your Managed SD-WAN
21:28 18 August 2019
SD-WAN technology is gaining traction among enterprises of all sizes thanks to the numerous benefits it provides, including cost savings thanks to the use of wireless and Internet links, as well as centralized control and management, improved network agility, the speed with which it can be deployed, and the ease of optimization.
DIY implementation of SD-WAN is a good option for IT managers with the resources to manage them because it provides the manager with unprecedented control and flexibility. However, managed SD-WAN implementations offer a better turnkey service, and can be useful for companies that are looking to get an SD-WAN going quickly.
If your enterprise is considering making the leap to a managed SD-WAN, then here are five points to consider when choosing a service provider:
1 - Global SLA-driven, hybrid services
The key idea behind an SD-WAN and the primary selling point is that they can efficiently make use of both public and private network services, therefor dramatically lowering the cost of WAN connectivity. This means that instead of using an Internet connection or a wireless link in passive mode to serve as a back-up to an MPLS link, the SD-WAN solution supports active-active mode connections.
Managed SD-WAN service providers should be able to support WAN services, including MPLS, Ethernet, Internet, and WiFi, globally, and backed up by SLAs that cover both in- and out-of-region footprints, regardless of the underlying technology. SLAs should cover network availability, packet loss, jitter, and latency because hybrid networks do not offer the same performance guarantees as a WAN covering a similar area over MPLS. Besides, the SLAs that extend to SD-WAN customer premise equipment should be evaluated, because the speed of repair or replacement of that equipment is critical to the continued operation of the location.
2 - Visibility and Application Performance Monitoring Tools
Many enterprises that are considering SD-WAN solutions will already have a form of private WAN service, either using Ethernet or MPLS. Having the option to prioritize traffic (such as favoring voice over data) over private links to maintain quality of service across applications, and also having access to performance monitoring tools for applications is a must. These are some of the reasons that a lot of companies have stuck with ethernet and MPLS, in spite of the extra cost. Application-aware routing with SD-WAN CPE choosing the best network path for bandwidth and quality of service is one of the key features of modern SD-WAN solutions.
There are two features that enable the intelligent and on-demand routing of traffic based on application. These are path conditioning and dynamic path control. Path conditioning can overcome the impact of dropped or out of sync packets using best-effort internet links to maintain optimum performance. DPC provides real-time traffic steering using MPLS or broadband links, based on policies that the company has defined. If there is an outage or a brownout, then DPC Will automatically failover to the nominated secondary connection in less than a second, meaning that the service for end-users is uninterrupted.
If your organization is transitioning to SD-WAN with MPLS and internet links, then your managed service provider should be happy to discuss the features above, and to provide extended monitoring and visibility tools for their services.
3 - Chaining Services
Network security is another crucial area for SD-WAN deployments, especially when they rely on a best-effort internet link alongside a private network. It is important that managed SD-WAN services offer a flexible approach when it comes to integrating network security.
Some managed service providers make use of SD-WAN vendors that collaborate with many security vendors to integrate with them and to validate their use with their solution. That is the ideal option. However, if your organization wants to use a different security solution then it helps if the managed services provider is able to demonstrate flexibility and expertise when it comes to integrating other services, and chaining services.
SD-WAN controllers, when used with micro-segmentation, offer a lot of control and can be used to define policies for traffic to pass through the chained network functions, meeting both the performance requirements and security requirements for each application. For example, traffic intended for a private cloud should be filtered at a regional firewall, and WAN optimization can be used to reduce distance-related latency issues.
4 - Flexible and Tired Managed SD-WAN Deployments
All of the characteristics described above are important for an SD-WAN deployment. However, an enterprise may have vastly different requirements based on its size, vertical and even across different locations or applications.
Some businesses could benefit from a simple overlay that allows high-speed access to and from various retail locations to a cloud-based inventory management system. However, a retailer using surveillance monitoring systems may need additional security to ensure that the system is tamper-proof.
Point-of-sale terminals may need additional optimization and security for PCI compliance purposes. An SD-WAN service provider should offer some tiered services that can support various premises-based and cloud-based applications based on whether they are low, high, or mission-critical in priority. Tiered services with non-disruptive software services such as optimization or analytics-as-a-service could be an additional benefit for many enterprise customers.
5 - Fully Managed and Co-Managed Services
Choosing a managed SD-WAN service offers a lot of benefits for those that want a turnkey solution. However, managed has a few different definitions so enterprises should take the time to understand what "managed" means in this instance. Will the service provider offer end-to-end management of the CPE, SLAs, routing policies and networks or will the IT manager have some control over certain services if they want to micromanage a specific aspect.
The SD-WAN market is comparatively new, and the associated managed services that go with it are also evolving. If you insist on a co-managed option, then you will have the confidence that your organization is managing to retain visibility and control over many of the features of your chosen solution, while still enjoying a lot of the advantages that go with a managed services provider.
As SD-WAN solutions gain traction in the market, the companies that provide SD-WAN managed services are looking to broaden their horizons and to cater to different segments of the market by offering low-cost CPE-centric solutions, basic SD-WAN solutions, and more feature-rich offerings that cover a wider range of requirements for enterprise clients, including security, optimized SaaS connections, and WAN optimization.
Each client should consider their options, compare and contrast various solutions, and take care to select the best option for their requirements.