As IT leaders know, cloud computing, real-time applications and the increasing number of remote and mobile workers often demand a shake-up of the design and build of a business's legacy network.
They also know that to implement full enterprise-wide, 5G-ready, Internet of Things (IoT) applications, software-defined networking in a wide area network, also known as SD WAN, is the architecture of choice. This is why more and more IT leaders are turning to network virtualization and are now making the case for—and have even implemented—SD WAN-enabled IoT to optimize their operations.
But once they've made this important decision, the next step is to prove the return on investment (ROI) by understanding what a successfully implemented SD WAN IoT and 5G-enabled network really looks like.
Setting networking expectations
Before implementing an SD WAN-enabled IoT network infrastructure and measuring its success, it's important to set expectations based on company requirements and needs. Clearly outlining an enterprise's IoT and network-related business goals can help establish benchmarks for future testing.
Expectations around quality of service (QoS) parameters will also be a key marker for measuring success. QoS becomes more important as networks and devices become more interconnected. Therefore, it's wise for companies to outline their needs and requirements in regard to QoS.
Once company ambitions are established, progress can then be measured in the context of "before" and "after."
For example, which applications do business operations need to prioritize? Once the SD WAN-enabled IoT network infrastructure is implemented, a benchmark of success could be measured by testing whether, under network stress, these priority applications receive sufficient bandwidth to perform as desired. How did throughput, latency and jitter perform?
A key trait of SD WAN is that it can make the network easier to manage and maintain, even with extra hardware and devices. Therefore, another benchmark can be measuring the capacity of the IT administrators before and after implementation. If the network is working adequately, administrators' efficiency should increase as they will be spending less time fixing network issues such as increased latency and bottlenecks.
Another benchmark may be whether transactions, the bread and butter of businesses, are being processed more quickly. How has this changed before and after implementation?
Ultimately, a flexible, software-defined, configurable network should allow for effective use of the infrastructure resources while delivering the agreed-upon QoS parameters for each service or application. Administrators need to assess if this is happening while keeping in mind that the answer will be relative to the specifications and expectations previously decided upon.
Diagnosing issues with SD WAN-enabled IoT
It's common for issues to occur when adopting new technology or implementing upgrades. And, as is often the case when advancing network infrastructure for specific outcomes, some fine-tuning will likely be necessary. If performance is falling short of the minimum expectations, IT managers will be keen to address the issues. Here are a few key ones to look out for.
Quality of connections
These can sometimes be difficult to manage when there are many over several different locations. SD WAN can help with managing the quality of connections by enabling the use of policies to automatically direct traffic to the optimal connections based on real-time conditions. Therefore, it is important to ensure that application-aware SD WAN policies are optimized based on business and application needs. And, it is important to monitor and optimize these policies over time rather than set it and forget it.
Problems with features and performances
Issues can arise with SD WAN if edge devices are undersized and at various locations. To remedy the issue, it's worth considering the performance level needed for each location across the network, and right-size accordingly.
Limited access to the necessary support
IT managers and administrators might feel they need more support and access to expert-level staff to make the most of the new IT infrastructure. Working with a dedicated service provider can bring decades of experience and thought leadership to the process and help create the best networking environment for the enterprise.
Concerns about security
There will likely be concerns about security—and understandably so. IT managers will be eager to ensure it is as robust as possible. With careful planning, security lapses can be largely eliminated.
Lack of planning resulting in increasing costs
Without a clear action plan, a new SD WAN adopter could encounter preventable issues. Working with an experienced network provider can help iron out issues before they become costly mistakes. In particular, they can do this by setting out a clear plan of adoption, creating realistic expectations around performance and helping staff understand the network.