How to Determine if SD-WAN is Right for your Business

How to Determine if SD-WAN is Right for your Business

A software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) solution can offer many benefits.  It is easy to deploy, provides centralized management and control, can reduce costs, and can make networks more efficient and agile by leveraging multiple access connections in order to manage and prioritize usage at an application level. 

Nearly 30% of enterprises responding to IDG’s 2019 SD-WAN Market Trends survey report already deploying SD-WAN for at least some of their networks. Another 25% are actively piloting this service.  So why doesn’t every company deploy an SD-WAN solution?  There are a number of valid reasons some businesses have not yet take the leap. For example, sometimes, when a company wants to avoid having their data transit over the public internet, they choose an MPLS or private line solution. Other times, locations and management requirements for a company are such that their network is relatively static or may only require a single connection.  In such cases, the flexibility, cost savings and network efficiency benefits that SD-WAN can provide may not be achievable or needed.  On the other hand, there are some corporate profiles that suggest the SD-WAN might be a good fit.  Companies requiring rapid deployments and minimal IT support with large number of locations that can utilize multiple access links, which are often found in the retail, financial and healthcare sectors, suggest a profile that may well benefit from an SD-WAN solution. It has been companies with these type of network profiles and requirements that have driven the growth in SD-WAN as Gartner predicted, from less than 1% in 2015 to the nearly 30% reflected in the IDG survey.

The fact that SD-WAN may not be a good fit in every network situation leads to the question:  How does a business know that SD-WAN is right for them? It turns out, understanding whether SD-WAN is a viable option for any company is one of the key problems that many businesses need to overcome. In many cases, companies lack the in-house expertise or the time and resources needed to evaluate what benefits SD-WAN technology would provide – whether the solution is right for them, how best to procure SD-WAN, and how that would impact their network costs. Most companies have heard that SD-WAN can provide costs savings as well as other benefits, but don’t know if that is true for their particular situation.  For example, counter to some common narratives in the industry, one leading telecom vendor is seeing the majority of customers who have purchased SD-WAN also purchased new MPLS and Internet services alongside, with many of those purchasing MPLS for the first time. The only way to know what actually makes sense for your business is to perform a detailed analysis of current and future needs, evaluate if SD-WAN is a possible fit, and then source and manage the solution with the right provider.

This includes:

  • Establishing a baseline of the network’s current state (including such things as detailed circuit information, cost, expiration dates, and potential termination penalties);
  • Determining the future state requirements in terms of locations, configuration requirements and bandwidth needs;
  • Conducting strategy design sessions with relevant stakeholders to align future state/end state needs with the appropriate SD-WAN solution design and vendor offerings;
  • Evaluating the business’ own capabilities to determine their ability to procure the network components that support the SD-WAN solution;
  • Determining if a managed or unmanaged solution SD-WAN solution is right fit;
  • Understanding SD-WAN provider offerings and capabilities and their associated unique strengths and weaknesses;
  • Selecting those SD-WAN providers that meet those requirements and conducting a sourcing exercise for the selected participants;
  • Implementing the strategy – ordering, updating inventory, updating contracts, insuring accurate invoicing on new items, shutting down inventory that’s being replaced and insuring you’re no longer billed for those, and tracking all that via reporting and analytics so that you can measure the progress, troubleshoot, and report to your executive team on where this program stands; and finally
  • Properly managing the solution moving forward to ensure optimal benefits.

It isn’t an easy task.  Even understanding what data services you have at what locations, how they relate to each other, what department utilizes them, and what you’re paying for them is a challenge for many enterprises. However, given the right situation, accurate understanding of current telecom inventory, proper planning, solid execution and ongoing focus, SD-WAN can provide significant benefits.  In the wrong situation, however, or if there is a mismatch between the solution chosen and the companies capabilities, costs can rise, benefits be lost and effort wasted.  Ultimately, for businesses to achieve the optimal level of benefits from SD-WAN, they need to spend the time and effort to evaluate their options to determine if SD-WAN is right for them, get the solution that meets their specific needs, and be able to manage the more robust offering that SD-WAN can be in the right way.

[i] IDG Market Pulse Research: 2019 SD-WAN Market Trends Survey on Behalf of Masergy.

[ii] Predicting SD-WAN Adoption. Andrew Lerner.