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Choosing the right SD-WAN technology


SD-WAN technology is at the heart of the network transformation you need to compete in today’s digital age. But with no standard definition of SD-WAN it can be difficult to understand what it is and what you need to invest in. At Hughes we define SD-WAN support as technology that provides a software overlay to a hardware network infrastructure that enables more effective management of network capacity, availability, performance and change.

Different vendors deliver SD-WAN in different ways with a different focus. We help our customers to define what they want to achieve and then procure the right solution to support them in achieving it.


Finding the right SD-WAN technology for you

We can help you work out which is the right technology for you by thinking about these key considerations.

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 technology has adequate security built in. Some solutions require a complimentary security system. Be sure you have the time and expertise to implement your chosen solution.
  • 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? Does your network or application require intra-branch traffic or does all of your traffic route directly to a data centre 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 for guest wi-fi networks.

Cost is often the biggest constraining variable in an SD-WAN purchase. Some solutions are charged on a usage basis for connectivity. These have a variable monthly fee on top of the software license and hardware costs. Others might be delivered on a fully managed basis without variable monthly usage costs. The move to SD-WAN will drive cost reductions in the long run through either reduced connectivity costs or reduced management overhead, but it’s important to understand which option is more cost-effective for your business.

How do you find the right price?

  • Understand what’s included in the price. Operating and maintaining your SD-WAN can be an additional cost on top of 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 now but may like to grow into at a later date without any further operational disruption.

You don’t want your VoIP service to put your business on hold because, say, a customer is streaming content or an employee is watching YouTube videos on their lunch break. Understanding how many real-time applications like voice and video you have, and understanding their importance in your ecosystem, will help you find the SD-WAN technology that delivers the performance you need for critical applications. Why not check out our video ‘The Battle of the Bandwidth

If ensuring the availability of high-priority applications is vital to your business it’s crucial that you select an SD-WAN solution that is capable of prioritising traffic.

 Be prepared by answering these questions:

  • 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 capability does the solution provide to classify packets by data and prioritize your most important traffic?

Does the solution have an application assurance approach that maximizes performance for customer interaction points?

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 centres, or a public or private cloud-based environment working on a SaaS model? What types of cloud access you need and the degree of importance cloud-based computing has in 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 make sure your network is optimised for your infrastructure choices?

  • Is your enterprise cloud-centric, data-centre centric, localised or a hybrid model?
  • Do you route all traffic through a few data centres?

This is an important element of the TCO conversation. In any large distributed enterprise, it’s probably fair to say that the WAN has been built over time with multiple technologies, including an array of legacy equipment, multiple connectivity types and multiple service plans.  Supporting change in this environment can be a real headache.

It is important to quantify the resource that might be required to service and support your existing WAN infrastructure and compare this with what that cost would be in an SD-WAN environment.

What do you need to consider when deciding what levels of service you need?

  • 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 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 critical components in effective networking today. Understanding how quickly you can adapt to changing network requirements is an important measure. For example, can you run different configurations at different sites? Perhaps you have several small sites supported by a regional office, all requiring different types of security, compliance, and application priorities.  How easily can you deploy Proof-of-Value 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, all or a mix of these.

Think about the performance, capability and service life of your current infrastructure:

  • What parts of your infrastructure currently perform well?
  • How long have they been in situ and what is their vendor published roadmap?

What parts of your infrastructure have, or require, certifications and compliance regulations?


Using PRISM to identify your needs

PRISM helps us to really understand what our customers need to achieve from their network and access the value they rely on to deliver competitive differentiation. We leverage our specialist knowledge to get inside your network so we can recommend the most suitable networking technology for your business.