This article was originally published on CIO.com.
Today’s digital era has triggered a mass modernization of corporate IT infrastructures. But in upgrading networks and security systems with technologies like SD-WAN and SASE, IT teams face a paradigm shift in managing a cacophony of new tools and service providers behind them.
SD-WAN and SASE: Essential for Secure Innovation and Remote Work
Company leaders are feeling the pressure: Now is the time to modernize IT or risk losing the company’s competitive edge. Accelerated demands in digital transformation and remote work have forced companies to upgrade their legacy networks and security systems so they can adequately support online services, cloud innovation, and artificial intelligence.
Two technologies are key in making these foundational upgrades: Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE). The SASE market will exceed $13B by 2026, a figure unscathed by economic pressures, according to Dell’Oro Group.
These interrelated tools make it faster, easier, and more affordable for businesses to securely connect offices and remote users to the applications and information they need to get work done. Moreover, SASE solutions package SD-WAN with four security capabilities for protection across the network, the public internet, and cloud applications.
While SD-WAN and SASE are praised for revolutionizing IT infrastructures, deployments trigger a wake of changes compounding complexity without the right management strategies in place.
Modernization Requires Smarter Management while Keeping an Eye on Costs
Knowing how to respond to the demands of SD-WAN and SASE can be the difference between a successful modernization project and a digital transformation disaster.
SD-WAN Requirements: In-depth Intelligence about Apps, Workloads, and Assets
One of the key advantages of SD-WAN is its ability to allocate network resources to the applications most important to the business. By prioritizing bandwidth, SD-WAN ensures the most critical tools are always up and running because they “get fed first.” This feature is known as application-based routing, and establishing traffic steering policies is a primary step in designing how any SD-WAN solution will function.
But here lies the critical prerequisite: You can’t establish traffic steering policies if you don’t first have a prioritized list of all your applications ranked from highly critical to discretionary. This is key for SD-WAN readiness because it serves as the blueprint for solution design. Technologies make asset inventories easy. Software used for network workload analysis, expense management, and Shadow IT discovery can help build network maps and a centralized catalog of applications, services, and connected devices and users.
The Risk of Unnecessary Complexity: More IT Services to Manage
SD-WAN and SASE can spur unforeseen management headaches, and given today’s staffing challenges, companies may not be prepared to take on the vast administrative responsibilities of handling increasingly distributed IT environments with more providers. Here are the primary sources of provider sprawl:
ISPs: Trading MPLS connectivity for broadband connectivity comes with the challenge of more internet service providers (ISPs), particularly for services across a wide geographical area. This can mean switching from one carrier to tens if not hundreds of ISPs.
Security & SASE: Every SD-WAN project should spur a security conversation, and converged SASE solutions make it easy to address network security. But this isn’t enough. Multi-layered security for the entire IT environment requires more tools and providers. Consider endpoint security, threat detection and response services, and comprehensive Zero Trust tools.
IaaS: Ancillary SD-WAN services include direct interconnections to cloud service providers, which is why companies use SD-WAN to migrate to the cloud. But again, cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) saddles IT teams with yet more distributed providers.
What’s at risk? Costs can get out of control. IT modernization generates a sprawling landscape and when not well managed, both hard and soft costs go unchecked. Cloud service overspending can be as high as 70%, according to Gartner.
SD-WAN & SASE: Managing it All
Successful modernization strategies give equal weight to building the IT infrastructure as they do to building the support systems and operations teams necessary to champion SD-WAN and SASE after implementation. Responsible management focuses on key areas of focus:
- Inventories need to be maintained for network services, SaaS apps, users, and their mobile devices, and data cleanliness is of utmost importance.
- Network service quality should be managed; troubleshooting can be time-consuming.
- Invoices need to be collected, validated, and paid on time to avoid service disruptions.
- Credits should be collected when providers fail to meet service level agreements.
- Contracts and renewals need attention at the end of every lifecycle.
- Centralization brings aggregate benefits:
- Visibility into all assets and services in one dashboard.
- Integrations with global providers and internal IT ticketing systems.
- Advanced analytics evaluating complex data across many data streams.
- The IT ecosystem means synthesizing insights: There are manylinks in the IT ecosystem (it’s more than just SASE connecting the network with security) – for example, SD-WAN telecom services and corporate mobile devices go together and should therefore be managed together.
- Converged tools create converged teams: When network, security, and financial data come together, leadership should also bring together, like operational teams.
- Cost optimization: most companies overestimate their SaaS and IaaS needs, and the ability to correlate usage data with asset ownership helps shed waste by identifying redundant applications and underutilized resources.
Worried about Management? Technologies and Services can Help
Software and services can help alleviate the manual work of management. When teams aren’t prepared to take a do-it-yourself approach, outsourcing can take the workload off internal teams. IT expense and asset management solutions address network services and cloud infrastructure and SaaS applications, as well as mobile devices, delivering benefits across broad areas:
- Management: Automating the administration of IT services, mobile device lifecycles, and invoices.
- Cost Savings: Evaluating IT spending to cut costs and identify inefficiencies as well as unused resources.
- Consulting: Assisting with service contract negotiation and IT investment strategies that transform the business—rather than just help run the business.
Effective Management Avoids Unnecessary Complexity
Modernizing an IT infrastructure requires a constellation of tools and services—and the degree to which a company can effectively manage its assets, providers, and expenses—determines whether it can operationalize SD-WAN and SASE without adding unnecessary complexity.
Without effectively managing all that surrounds SD-WAN, it’s nearly impossible to understand the cost of, or guarantee the performance of—much less the security of—the business’s technology investment.
IT and procurement leaders find it helpful to take a centralized approach, administering all SD-WAN and SASE services and tools in one place with a keen eye on costs. With excellence in tactical and strategic management, it’s far easier to realize the full value of an IT modernization effort.
Read the complete SD-WAN & SASE report.
Learn more about network, SD-WAN, and telecom cost optimization from Tangoe.