No one SD-WAN solution is right for everyone.
Some come with security built-in, some with it as an add-on. Some are best for cloud-based enterprises, others for the traditional spoke-and-wheel approach to networking. While changing your network to SD-WAN is a step in the right direction, it's not enough by itself to get the most for your enterprise.
So how do you get a tailored SD-WAN? First, work with a vendor like Hughes that gives you a wide range of SD-WAN solutions from best-in-class vendors, backed by the expertise to find the right solution for your specific needs. Secondly, it's all about measurements.
See the eight points below to better understand how your SD-WAN may or may not be measuring up.
Nothing may be more important in networking than security. In distributed enterprises, it’s absolutely crucial that you find a service that provides the right level of security to defend against threat without excessive burdens that prohibit productivity. After all, more is at stake than a few packets here and there. Massive fines. Downtime. Loss of reputation. Getting the right-sized security offering can be the difference between success and failure by itself.
So how do you secure your tailored SD-WAN?
- Determine if your SD-WAN has adequate security built in. Some solutions require a complimentary security system. Be sure you have the time and expertise to implement.
- Is the solution PCI compliant? Does it meet other certifications your industry may require?
- Some SD-WAN solutions have edge-based cloud security (e.g., at your individual locations) or cloud-based, a more centralized approach. Is your network designed for intra-branch traffic or just SaaS-based traffic with most traffic working through a cloud environment shared in your company? Does your network or applications require intra-branch traffic or does all of your traffic route directly to a data center or cloud service? The answer dictates which security solutions will work for your company.
- What advanced threat management features do you need? These days it's crucial to provide services that offer protected wi-fi connections, especially guest wi-fi networks.
While security is paramount, cost is often the biggest constraining variable in an SD-WAN purchase. A big cost driver is certain SD-WAN solutions that charge based on bandwidth usage. These have a variable monthly fee on top of the software license and hardware costs. The move to SD-WAN will be a cost-saver in the long run, but understanding the budget will ensure you get the performance you need.
How do you find the right price?
- Understand what’s included in the price. Operating and maintaining your SD-WAN can be an addition to the initial deployment costs. A Managed Service Provider can provide ongoing 24/7 support, maintenance, and repair far more cost effectively than most companies can provide on their own.
- Understand any variable costs that may go up or down, for example, with metered connections
- Don’t pay for bells and whistles you may not need.
You don’t want your VoIP service to put your business on hold because, say, a customer is streaming endless content at your coffee bar. Understanding how many real-time applications like voice and video you have, and understanding their importance in your ecosystem, will help you find an SD-WAN solution that will perform, no matter what the Lannisters are up to.
For example, with the Hughes Managed SD-WAN solution, we use ActiveClassifier to determine which packets belong to which app, then ActivePath to be sure high-priority applications always get the resources they need, while lower priority applications like web surfing, get a lower a priority.
What tailored apps are perfect for you?
- What and how many real-time applications do you have?
- What is their importance in your enterprise?
- What level of performance are you willing to accept?
- What solutions does the vendor provide to classify packets by data and prioritize your most important traffic?
- Does the vendor have sub-second path selection and multi-session optimization?
- Does the vendor have an application assurance approach that maximizes performance of the customer interaction points?
- Do your applications require higher level interactivity? Constant back and forth of data flow like an AI recommendation engine or an associate app that allows for mobile order entry and payment are examples of the interactivity Hughes can support.
Cloud Access and Application Location
Not all networks are designed the same. Think of where your apps are located. Are they local at each site, in a series of data centers, or cloud-based and working on a SaaS model? What types of cloud access you need, and how important local versus cloud-based computing is to your enterprise will determine if you’re optimizing your network or paying for connections that don’t map to your network topography.
How do you find a tailored cloud program?
- Is your enterprise cloud-centric, data-centric centric, localized or a hybrid model?
- Do you route all traffic through a few data centers?
Service Level Needed
Like cost, this should be a point you decide on very early in the process. How much network optimization do you have the ability and desire to take on? Do you want to take your valuable IT staff and task them with more productive, business-focused task than network management? Do you want to assume the burden of staying current with the latest updates and advances or do you want a partner to both look ahead and handle the day-to-day patching and updating that goes along with network maintenance?
At Hughes, for example, we have a full buffet of service options, from our fully managed offering to pure customer DIY. And while fully managed may carry a higher cost, it provides many benefits from maintenance to optimization that pay off sooner rather than later and allow you to focus on an exceptional customer experience.
How do you decide on service coverage?
- What level of technical expertise do you have in-house?
- Do you need extended hours or 24/7 coverage?
- Can you deploy a large-scale network change without interruption to your core business or do you want a partner to help ensure a smooth transition?
- Do you want network analytics made available?
- Do you want zero-touch provisioning?
- How much time over the next five years do you want to devote to network maintenance and updating?
- How much time do you want to devote to staying current on network trends to keep your network competitive?
- Do you have a help desk and ticketing system? Do you want to continue to carry that expense?
Agility is one of the all-time buzzwords in networking. It’s a word that so agile, it can mean ten things at once depending on who you’re listening to. In determining your tailored SD-WAN, though, it has a specific meaning. How quickly can you make changes? For example, can you run different configurations at different sites? Perhaps you have a few sites that are small commercial banks while another is a regional mortgage office, all requiring different types of security, compliance, and applications. How easily can you stand up Proof-of-Concept/test sites to pilot new technologies?
What does tailored agility look like?
- Time to market/deployment
- Need for dynamic and automatic configuration updates
- Ability to stand up and unwind proof-of-concepts without impacting business
- Fluid transition to new cloud services or SaaS apps
- Ability to alter the underlay circuits, say upgrade from 4G to 5G, without impacting SD-WAN overlay
Sometimes you like what you have. At least for part of your technology stack. Maybe you rely heavily on Cisco for all your routers and switches and want a solution that will work with existing infrastructure. Maybe you think Fortinet security is a must-have and want a solution that will allow you to integrate existing firewalls.
The right partner should be able to help with any of these. (At Hughes, for example, we’re partners with VMware, Cisco, Fortinet, and others who can deploy solutions using parts of, or all of, either.)
Don’t sacrifice what’s working if you don’t have to.
How to get tailored partnership:
- What parts of your infrastructure currently perform well?
- What would you like to keep?
- What parts of your infrastructure have certifications or have met compliance regulations that you may need to hang on to?
Here’s one place SD-WAN really shines over MPLS and legacy solutions. Bandwidth. Using broadband means massive amounts of bandwidth can be configured when needed and spun down when not. And unlike MPLS, which requires you to provision multiple expensive circuits to scale, with broadband, it’s a cost-effective solution.
And if you’re like most distributed enterprises, there will be some percentage of your sites that require metered connections, like satellite or cellular. These can be either primary connections for remote sites or backup connections for any site, as satellite, particularly is far more impervious, but less susceptible to terrestrial threats. Here, your vendor should be able to help as well, to ensure you don’t overuse metered solutions and end up with a hefty bill every month.
Understanding what capacity, you need as a baseline, and what you actually get, and what will determine if you have enough bandwidth to keep everyone happy and productive.
What does tailored bandwidth look like for you?
- Determine what capacity you need both at normal, peak, and beyond-peak traffic levels.
- Understand what WAN optimization and compression techniques the vendor provides and determine how that impacts the capacity you need. There is a mistaken belief that if more bandwidth is all you need, the fix is to just buy a bigger circuit. Smart planning, and the use of a robust SD-WAN solution to optimize performance, allows for circuits to be right-sized, ending over-provisioning and reducing monthly costs by millions of dollars per year.
- Determine if your network requires the use of metered connections like satellite or cellular. How does your vendor work with metered connections to minimize dependence and maximize performance?
Learning about and understanding these 8 points can prepare you to choose a tailored SD-WAN that leads to more success for your enterprise.