A look at the rapid adoption of SD-WAN and a few considerations for success

sd-wanRemember when VoIP was “the next big thing?” What about SaaS? Cloud? Big Data? The technology industry is always on the hunt for new advancements with the potential to transform the way businesses operate. However, those transformations aren’t always for the better, particularly if organizations don’t take the time to carefully assess and plan new technology initiatives. Given the hype and early traction of SD-WAN, it’s safe to say that Software Defined Networking is now the front-runner for the title of “the next big thing.” Let’s take a look at why SD-WAN is poised to become the new standard for wide area topologies, and what you need to think about before beginning a deployment of your own.

Traditional wide area networks were built with expensive routers at the network edge to direct traffic over relatively expensive MPLS circuits that provide guaranteed bandwidth and quality of service (QoS). SD-WANs allow companies to balance the use of cheaper broadband networks with limited fixed MPLS circuits to route traffic based on the unique bandwidth requirements of each specific application. All this boils down to a more flexible, efficient and cost-effective way to build and operate WANs, and early adopters are recognizing significant cost savings.

Now the broader mainstream IT and networking communities have taken notice too. We’re seeing rapid SD-WAN adoption by not only risk-tolerant early adopters, but companies of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the largest enterprises to less technically savvy SMBs. And this is just the beginning. Research by analyst firm IDC predicts that the SD-WAN market will grow at a 40 percent compound annual growth rate over the next four years, reaching $4.5 billion by 2022. This explosive growth and adoption have already made a significant impact on the technology landscape. Just look at Cisco’s acquisitions of Viptela and VMware’s acquisition of Velocloud. These technology stalwarts have now emerged as leaders in the SD-WAN market.

However, while SD-WAN is proving to live up to the hype, there are several important issues you should consider before kicking off your first SD-WAN initiative:

1. SD-WANs do not operate in a vacuum. Most SD-WAN implementations will inevitably have unexpected effects on application performance. For example, QoS now is emerging (seemingly from the technology graveyard) as a key performance indicator yet again to ensure voice and video quality. Now the Network Operations (NetOps) teams will need to reexamine long-standing QoS policies and start inspecting latency, jitter and loss.

2. SD-WANs fundamentally transform the network. These systems are designed to make changes to application paths for better performance, or automatically toggle between multiple service provider and transport types based on traffic priorities. So it can be challenging for businesses to understand how both the legacy infrastructure and new software-defined network fabrics are performing and if the appropriate policies are being executed. Deep visibility into the network becomes even more essential for software-defined environments.

3. SD-WANs create virtual networks using various types of tunnels. This can cause some visibility issues, making it harder to see what is really happening. Without granular visibility into these virtual networks, troubleshooting complex SD-WAN fabrics can become a costly headache.

4. SD-WANs involve added service provider complexity. When moving from legacy MPLS to SD-WAN, managing the number of service providers at play can be a major operational challenge. With SD-WAN models, you could have a different ISP to manage for each individual site, plus there’s a greater risk of the physical underlay of those ISPs causing problems.

5. SD-WAN management platforms can’t do it all. Insights from SD-WAN management platforms alone typically stop at the SD-WAN edge device. NetOps teams need a holistic view of the entire network in order to manage and troubleshoot these complex deployments. This is particularly important during the planning and implementation phases to ensure end-to-end visibility throughout the migration.

SD-WAN might be the next big thing in networking, but that doesn’t mean you should run headlong into a new deployment without carefully considering the intended outcome and engaging in the proper planning steps. LiveAction is helping companies of all types and sizes through new SD-WAN deployments using LiveNX, our advanced network performance management and analytics platform.

LiveNX is a perfect example of a complementary network monitoring solution that makes SD-WAN planning, deployment and management simpler and more effective. To better understand how LiveAction can help you begin building tomorrow’s network today, request a LiveNX demo here.

Brooks Borcherding
CEO at LiveAction

Oct. 31, 2018