Most people who work in the IT industry have heard the buzz about software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN). SD-WAN promises to reduce WAN costs, streamline management and simplify networking in branch locations. However, SD-WAN deployment comes with a new set of complexities that can create problems for your company. That’s why it makes sense to partner with a managed network service provider when transitioning to SD-WAN.
Software-defined solutions are replacing hardware-based technologies in many areas of the IT environment. A software-defined infrastructure is more flexible and scalable and can conform to the needs of the business. SD-WAN allows organizations to define how their offices are connected and choose where and how to send WAN traffic. Additionally, SD-WAN permits the aggregation of multiple links into one large “virtual” link, and makes it possible to deploy firewall protection, Quality of Service, dynamic route tables and more on one appliance. But with this flexibility comes increased complexity.
Many organizations have one WAN circuit contract, usually an MPLS or Metro-Ethernet link. But to take advantage of SD-WAN flexibility, you may wish to add direct Internet access in your branch offices. What if the service provider doesn’t have the best speed or even any offering in all of your branch locations? What if you want two Internet connections, or 4G/LTE or satellite as a backup? How do you ensure that each branch comes online as planned?
A managed network service provider will negotiate these contracts, and ensure the new circuits are established and configured when a new branch is set up. The service provider can also aggregate all the circuits on one bill, whether they are MPLS, 4G/LTE, cable, DSL or satellite links. Your IT team doesn’t have to provision and coordinate the installation of the circuits, and your accounting department doesn’t have to sort through all the bills and make sure they’re correct.
Of course, when you connect a branch office directly to the Internet, rather than backhauling Internet to the main data center, you have to secure those connections. SD-WAN appliances are also security devices, but they must be properly configured and patched. Few organizations have the personnel or expertise to maintain security appliances in every branch office.
Having a valued partner is very beneficial for ensuring security. A managed network service provider can maintain the security software on each SD-WAN appliance and patch the appliances as needed.
Most of the SD-WAN manufacturers are working toward a simple provisioning model. Pre-staging of the equipment coupled with a “call home” feature allow for the deployment of firmware and configurations from the main data center. But how do you ensure that proper preparations have been made prior to shipping the appliance? If something goes wrong, you would have to send someone to the branch to troubleshoot the problem and get the appliance working. This could take days and comes with a significant cost.
A managed network service provider can ensure the SD-WAN appliance is configured correctly, and test and turn-up the circuits when ready. And if something goes wrong, the service provider can dispatch a knowledgeable person onsite quickly, minimizing costs and delays.
SD-WAN implementation may take longer and have unexpected consequences in terms of both cost and security if performed by inexperienced personnel. Partnering with a managed network service provider to deploy your SD-WAN can save money in the long run and ensure proper management and oversight.