While SD-WAN isn’t new, it’s come of age during the pandemic as organizations look to connect a range of locations, from branch offices to home cable broadband. As we move toward hybrid workforces, it’s likely that we’ll see continued growth in software-defined WANs.
The technology holds a lot of promise through its native network and application monitoring capabilities: to increase network security, reduce complexity and improve visibility into the network. But, as any IT pro knows, you can’t just flip a switch and voila!
SD-WAN is not a plug-and-play solution, and one size does not fit all.
Indeed, 75 per cent of IT professionals have significant challenges with the native monitoring features of their SD-WAN implementations, according to an EMA report on enterprise WAN transformation (based on a survey of more than 300 enterprise IT professionals).
Why SD-WAN deployments fail
“One of the things we found in that research was that pretty much everyone is engaged with SD-WAN at this point,” said Shamus McGillicuddy, who leads the network management practice at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), in a recent webinar.
The survey found that a whopping 98 per cent of enterprises were engaged with SD-WAN. Yet, “only 47 per cent told us that they have been fully successful so far with that engagement,” he said. (For the purposes of the survey, engagement means they’re fully deployed, in production or engaged with a proof of concept.)
That means less than half of enterprises consider their SD-WAN engagement to be a complete success.
Enterprises are focused on improving network and application performance through SD-WAN, such as boosting the overall bandwidth available to their network and powering application performance.
“But that requires good visibility and good engineering of your overlay,” said McGillicuddy, adding that the MPLS circuits and broadband connections cobbled together to assemble an overlay doesn’t give them deep visibility into the underlay.
Improving visibility for better ROI
Indeed, as an article in Network Computing points out: “SD-WANs without visibility and control will end up squandering the promising ROI they were originally deployed to produce.” So, it’s essential to understand your monitoring requirements and capabilities to optimize performance on an ongoing basis.
Native monitoring isn’t always enough, which could be why we’re seeing a shift from DIY rollouts to managed SD-WAN and the use of third-party network monitoring tools to optimize management.
According to the EMA survey, SD-WAN adopters who report successful rollouts say that third-party monitoring is critical (less successful adoptors say it’s “helpful”).
Making the move to managed SD-WAN
Previously EMA found that enterprises were divided over whether they wanted to take a DIY approach — where they implemented the solution themselves — or consume it as a managed service.
“But now we’ve seen a major shift towards managed SD-WAN solutions. Sixty-two per cent of enterprises in our research show that they prefer a managed SD-WAN service to a DIY approach,” said McGillicuddy. Only 12 per cent prefer to take a DIY approach. (The other respondents didn’t have a preference because they’re still in the proof-of-concept stage.)
IT organizations, however, aren’t necessarily outsourcing their SD-WAN operations, with 63 per cent saying their preference was a hybrid approach where they share responsibility with an MSP (with shared visibility and management). Only 17 per cent said they wanted an internally managed SD-WAN operations approach.
Finding the right fit
Whether you’re considering a DIY, managed or hybrid approach, it’s crucial “to ensure the vendor or managed service provider (MSP) offers good, reliable support. Ultimately, the choice correlates to the organization’s individual requirements, resources and preferences,” according to an article in TechTarget.
That also means understanding how the new SD-WAN architecture works with legacy management tools, connectivity and security — and relying on third-party support or tools when it makes sense.
Ultimately, an SD-WAN will replace or overlay your existing WAN, which means the stakes are high — so doing your due diligence and finding the right support could make the difference between a successful deployment and a whole lot of headaches.