Get the SD WAN facts before you buy

Published: Mar 21, 2018
Author: Danny Johnson

The future of managing enterprise infrastructure is steeped in SD WAN. IDC[1] predicts the SD WAN market will quadruple from $1.9 billion in 2017 to $8.05 billion in 2021. But along with the excitement derived from advancing technology, a lot of misinformation also emerges. Many SD WAN vendors and consultants are touting SD WAN as the end-all, be-all technology for making networks faster, cheaper and better with little effort. As a result, more and more IT managers believe they can use SD WAN to cut corners and reduce network infrastructure costs without repercussions. That claim can be very misleading. So it is important to separate SD WAN facts from fiction.

By clouding the marketplace with misinformation, some vendors have mischaracterized what SD WAN can actually deliver. The reality is that the quality of your network is just as critical to performance as it has ever been; what SD WAN can do is help you get the most out of network you have. SD WAN can certainly help improve operational efficiency, control CAPEX and increase business agility. What it can’t do is make a poor network that rides on inferior infrastructure “better.”

One way to think about SD WAN is to compare it to the GPS app on your phone. Just plug in an address and that clever little app will tell you the fastest route possible, even suggesting alternate routes based on reported traffic.

However, the app can’t do anything to improve the quality of the roads. A road that’s riddled with potholes, covered in ice patches, or damaged from a harsh winter, or any number of other issues is going to greatly impact not only how long your trip takes, but also the quality of your experience.

It’s the same for SD WAN. The technology can certainly tell your data what “road” to take.

However, if your network is the equivalent of backcountry, rutted dirt roads, you’re going to experience packet loss, latency issues and jitter. A GPS-enabled app can only get you there as fast as the road allows, and SD WAN is only as good as the network behind it.

I’ve seen many articles, blog posts and forum discussions asking the same general question: “Is SD WAN better than MPLS?” That’s like asking if Google Maps is better than the freeway. It’s not a matter of one versus the other. A connectivity model that includes a hybrid infrastructure (MPLS-based, public IP, broadband, 4G LTE) and SD WAN is what it truly takes to get your data where it needs to go while avoiding traffic delays.

The options are clear:

1)  You can believe the misinformation that SD WAN delivers high quality performance even on networks built on connectivity that is not designed to support your demands. In doing so, you might reduce your OPEX, but you risk providing an experience that does not meet your customers’ expectations. The risk extends to potential reduction in revenue if customers chose to go with a competitor that leverages a higher quality network. Or,

2)  You can deploy SD WAN on a network that has the quality to provide the experience your customers expect. Not only do you gain the agility SD WAN promises, but you are not placing a bet against potential revenue to reduce costs.

So what does SD WAN really do? SD WAN technology infuses intelligence into a hybrid network made up of a variety of fully-meshed connectivity technologies (MPLS-based, public IP, etc.) enabling enterprises to make better use of different types of network connections. Through centralized administration and control, SD WAN selects the best path across the variety of available network connections for enterprise applications, based on the performance requirements of the specific applications, e.g., voice. Making sure that your SD WAN can cost effectively access the appropriate network options (or roads) to meet your required application performance is critical to achieving the productivity and customer experience levels needed to drive the results your business requires.

You need to work with a service provider who can provide you with private, public, broadband and wireless “roads” which will deliver the application experience your business needs. The companies that propagate a narrative that broadband and SD WAN is all that is need to provide the application experience you need are selling you short. They should be telling you that a quality, hybrid core infrastructure and SD WAN are both required to deliver the application and user experience you need. Make sure you have the facts before you buy.

Click here to make sure you understand the SD WAN facts and what they mean for your company.

Danny Johnson, a 20+ year veteran in the technology industry, is a seasoned executive possessing experience in software development, engineering, sales, consulting, product development, and marketing. Danny has started and launched innovative products and solutions within multi-billion dollar markets and is currently the head of product marketing for Verizon where he shares responsibility for the profitable growth of Verizon’s Strategic Network Portfolio.

[1] IDC, Worldwide SD-WAN Forecast, 2017-2021, doc #US42904317, July 2017.