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Implementing
SD WAN solutions:
commonly
overlooked
considerations

Author: Gary Hilson

Software-defined wide area networks (SD WANs) offer a lot of technical benefits that also support business outcomes. But implementing SD WAN solutions will only deliver on its promise if you fully understand how to deploy SD WAN.

Implementing SD WAN solutions as part of a successful network transformation is more complex than merely applying software-defined technology. All network functions must work in concert to drive improved application performance and meet security and resilience objectives. Knowing how to deploy SD WAN means understanding service chains so you can phase in your implementation and test throughout the deployment to make certain everything works together.

Transform your network by implementing SD WAN solutions

The challenges that come with deploying SD WAN should not discourage organizations from embracing it. Done correctly and with the right partner, SD WAN can deliver many benefits.

SD WANs are increasingly being adopted for enterprise networks as a means to augment widely used Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) networks and to help enhance security as the network perimeter has become less defined and endpoints have proliferated. An SD WAN enables you to combine all locations into one logical network governed by policies sent out by SD WAN controllers. An SD WAN can use your MPLS to connect locations and leverage it to balance security and performance so that critical applications and data can get differentiated treatment than less critical and recreational traffic. An SD WAN that leverages MPLS also takes advantage of a variety of available data services, including broadband, cable and 4G LTE.

In addition to network flexibility, the big benefits of SD WAN go beyond the ability to combine sites into one logical network:

  • Centralized, policy-based controls help to accelerate deployment speeds.
  • Application awareness automates traffic routing decisions through rules-based controls.
  • Intelligent control can improve application performance.
  • Recreational traffic can be offloaded to lower-cost connections.

Because the inherent intelligence and hybrid connectivity of an SD WAN directs traffic to the most optimal network connection, implementing SD WAN solutions can reduce your monthly internet bandwidth costs and lower operational costs. Those savings are also the result of simplicity of deployment, as SD WAN nodes typically use low-touch provisioning when connecting back to the controller upon installation. The nodes will also configure themselves based on retrieved custom policies, including those that govern port configuration, application requirements and other business policies such as priority for specific applications, data and traffic.

Implementing SD WAN solutions can create hurdles, too

Implementing SD WAN does present some challenges and costs that must be managed. Even as you are able to balance out network traffic to improve availability and performance for business users, it will cost you more to secure your network if you go it alone when deploying SD WAN.

Because there's no single perimeter around one physical location, implementing SD WAN inevitably means you're expanding the attack surface—multiple offices and endpoints require their own security services, including an intrusion prevention system (IPS) and firewalls.

And while many new paradigms in compute, storage and networking are about offloading responsibilities and daily tasks to another party, implementing SD WAN will have your IT department taking on costs rather than having everything channel through an MPLS services provider, including a single point of contact in the event of an outage. This means you must also be mindful of future capacity planning so you can accommodate growing traffic loads and overall expansion that will compound security challenges as well as increase the management and implementation of patches and upgrades.

For many organizations implementing SD WAN solutions, challenges and delays may arise due to a shortage of in-house IT staff who are already stretched thin with day-to-day responsibilities and other IT projects that have their own deployment, life cycle and change management requirements. Not only can it be difficult to recruit, train and retain staff in a rapidly evolving environment, but developing the needed tools can also be costly and time-consuming. And many companies lack the management expertise required, which is why you should consider working with a managed services provider who can bring additional value to the table. 

When deploying SD WAN solutions, consider a partner

Not only can a managed services provider top up and complement your own in-house IT staff, but they can also apply their expertise and experience gained from having done multiple SD WAN deployments for a wide range of customers with a variety of requirements and challenges.

A partner both knows how to deploy SD WAN and can also offer it as a fully managed service. During deployment, they will test to ensure your existing WAN infrastructure works well with your SD WAN as you evolve your network. This helps to ensure that all network functions work in unison to drive improved application performance, as well as meet security and resilience objectives. An experienced managed services provider also has a robust catalog of service chains and knows how they work together to help successfully navigate the complexity of any network transformation.

As you incrementally transition to an SD WAN across your organization, a managed services provider can also take over the daily operations so that all your network deployments can work together. By delivering your SD WAN as a managed service, a partner takes care of any design, configuration or maintenance requirements, which allows your IT team to focus on core projects. This also allows you to manage your day-to-day policies while your service provider manages more complex policies and service aspects. You may also be able to tap into APIs that can integrate SD WAN policy output with in-house enterprise management systems to drive changes.

No matter your network architecture, a managed SD WAN applies application-aware routing helps all your data travel a secure, optimum path to its destination, keeping private networks clear for demanding apps while sending less critical data over public networks to help ensure availability and performance of network resources.

Explore how Verizon's Managed SD WAN services can help support your network transformation.