Choosing the right SD WAN partner for your network evolution
Your business depends on the reliability, performance and security of your networks. With increasing numbers of applications and services based in the cloud, you also depend on effective connectivity between internal networks and the cloud. For businesses with extensive branch networks, WAN performance is also critical.
However, according to Gartner, traditional network offerings are not suitable for delivering ‘reliable, agile, cost-effective and high-performing solutions in support of hybrid IT-cloud architecture.’ The firm recommends that business should enable greater network agility, simplicity and performance by distributing Internet access and replacing traditional routers in favor of SD-WAN appliances. By 2024, Gartner forecasts that 60 percent of enterprises will have implemented SD-WAN to increase agility and enhance support for cloud applications. That’s up from less than 20 percent today.
Many analysts agree that SD-WAN will play a key role in network evolution. SD-WAN growth is driven by a rise in the adoption of business-critical, bandwidth-intensive applications that include cloud apps, video conferencing and the Internet of Things, according to Global Market Insights. Other analysts cite the increase in mobile data traffic, increasing number of cloud-based solutions, rising demand for mobility services and enterprise focus on reducing OPEX as key drivers for SD-WAN adoption. Branch networking is also a strong growth area.
If your business needs to improve network performance to meet these challenges, what’s the next step and how do you choose an SD-WAN vendor as a partner for your network transformation?
Advice and Guidance
Deploying SD-WAN is not a one-time substitution. It’s a step in the drive towards automated, intelligent networking, dynamic routing, optimum application performance and greater branch agility. Because not all networks are at the same point of evolution, it’s essential to step back, identify your current network status and prioritize network changes as part of a longer term roadmap that’s aligned to your business strategy.
Your vendor should work with you to establish that roadmap and assess your existing infrastructure. That means the vendor must have both business skills to relate networking to your growth strategy and technical skills to analyze your networking and application environment and make practical recommendations. Using professional consultancy services ensures that SD-WAN deployments are focused on the right benefits for your business. These advisory services will help you leverage SD-WAN, plan the best strategy for network transformation and deploy the technology efficiently.
SD-WAN Experience and Expertise
SD-WAN is a relatively recent technology but it’s attracting more and more vendors into the market. Some will obviously have more experience and expertise than the newcomers. When analysts compare SD-WAN vendors, they take account of factors like number and typical size of deployments, length of time in the market and SD-WAN resources.
Some players have built their SD-WAN expertise through acquisitions or partnerships; some come from a carrier or service provider background. While SD-WAN is a ‘universal’ solution, some vendors may have specific sector expertise, which may be relevant to your business, or greater experience with either enterprise or small and medium business deployments. It’s important to review a potential partner’s SD-WAN credentials and ask for proof points to justify their claims.
Telecoms and UC Expertise
Closely related to general SD-WAN expertise is a vendor’s background in telecoms and Unified Communications. SD-WAN can prioritize critical applications like voice to overcome latency and Quality of Service issues associated with traditional networking technologies. However, commentators point out that not all SD-WAN solutions are suitable for voice and UC. Vendors should therefore have relevant telecoms experience when recommending and specifying SD-WAN solutions
Breadth of Portfolio
Another important factor in vendor selection is breadth of portfolio. In addition to SD-WAN hardware, software and security tools, vendors should be able to offer services that are relevant to your business.
One of the most critical is WAN optimization and integration. Analysts Frost and Sullivan’s 2018 SD-WAN Global Survey found that WAN optimization remains critical for businesses with 67 percent of North American IT decision makers indicating they would like WAN optimization to be integrated with SD-WAN. Integration with WAN optimization was the number 3 factor when selecting SD-WAN vendors, according to the survey.
Network automation capability is also important. A key benefit of SD-WAN is its ability to support increasing levels of configuration and routing automation. The vendor’s roadmap should clearly indicate their plans for supporting higher levels of automation.
The vendor must provide a network architecture that enables fast simple deployment, agility and centralization of configuration as well as high performance and reliability. If your network incorporates branch connections, the vendor’s solution must enable configuration, management and monitoring of all devices from a single centralized portal.
An SD-WAN solution is an overlay to an existing network overlay so it must work seamlessly with your underlying network topology. That way it will support your existing network investment without a major reengineering effort. The SD-WAN vendor must demonstrate that they understand your network architecture and offer a solution that works seamlessly with it, without the need for customization.
Reliability and Scalability
The vendor must have the capability to deliver a solution that provides the highest levels of performance, reliability and availability, particularly for mission-critical applications like voice or UC. SD-WANs offer inherently higher levels of performance by enabling dynamic traffic routing and the right level of bandwidth for each application.
However, the vendor’s solution must incorporate best-of-breed components and services so that reliability and performance are not compromised. Where vendors partner with service providers to deliver a complete solution, check the partners’ credentials as well as those of the main vendor.
The solution must also be scalable to accommodate business growth or the addition of new sites. Additional devices should be easy to deploy and any sites should be easily integrated into the main network to support centralized management.
Analysts indicate that network security is a key factor when businesses are considering SD-WAN. The vendor must be able to indicate how they will provide security. The solution should incorporate segmentation and advanced firewall functionality coupled with cloud-hosted security monitoring and detection services. In some cases, vendors may partner with specialist security providers to deliver the levels of security your business needs.
Managed Service Capability
If your business does not have the skills, resources or time to deploy and manage SD-WAN, it’s important to work with a vendor that can provide a managed SD-WAN service. Managed service providers employ skilled professionals who manage and maintain your system and handle any upgrades so that your network is always using the latest version of software.
Adopting managed SD-WAN services can help control internal costs and improve efficiency. According to the Gartner Market Guide for Managed SD-WAN Services, 2019 report, service providers become the single point of contact for monitoring, reporting, and incident and change management of the SD-WAN solution and this allows the internal team to focus on higher objectives.
A vendor that meets all of those requirements will prove to be an effective partner in transforming your networks with SD-WAN. They will also have a strong reputation and track record of successful deployments to back up their claims. Analyst reviews and vendor comparison websites can be useful in getting an independent perspective on potential partners.
Find Out More
BroadConnect delivers high-performance SD-WAN solutions across Canada. BroadConnect is Canada’s leading alternative telephony and networking solutions provider with thousands of customers in every sector. If you want to find out more about SD-WAN or discuss a solution for your business, please contact us now to speak to an expert – 1-877-228-6616.