No matter where you look software defined networks (SD WAN) is very much the here-and-now of network connectivity. Then again, SD WAN is not a new concept. Vendor offerings have been available for an age in IT terms – at least 10 years.
But it is only very recently that we have seen SD WAN widespread adoption, along with the benefits this brings…and despite the claims made by early-introducer vendors such as replacing those expensive MPLS circuits with Internet connections will save you money. And the notion we can remove the MPLS altogether! After all, they said, the Internet is good enough and the software defined stuff will make it feel like a private WAN – including those MPLS features like QoS and VRFs that we’ve become so used to. Oh, and you just plug the SD WAN router in and it simply sorts itself out.
Well, not quite. Or not yet at least.
In the UK, the cost savings by removing MPLS circuits just don’t exist the way they do in other territories. If you run a global WAN, there could be real cost savings…but with UK-centric networks it’s just not what we’ve seen.
And replacing MPLS hasn’t seen any real take-up for a number of reasons – security and service guarantees to name but two. On the other hand, running SD WAN as an overlay on top of MPLS, well, that’s a more compelling approach. All things considered, however, the self-provisioning, self-configuring, self-managed network has so far remained the mythical unicorn that eludes all vendors.
But that’s not to say there isn’t a case for SD WAN, right here and right now.
Here’s why. When it comes to how budgets are spent, vendors are realising that charging eye-watering subscription fees just doesn’t work, but offering core SD WAN functionality as standard can be a real differentiator – the complexity of running a core network is reduced.
But getting the configuration right – and right for your traffic and use-cases – becomes more critical than ever. Which is why in the managed-network space we are seeing more customers looking to the providers to run and operate SD WAN networks, but delegating access to provide customer-permitted changes. This is the best of both worlds, customers can make their own changes quickly and easily, usually through a GUI, but know they have the safety net of the MSP to fall back on.
And in these times of embracing new ways of working, having the flexibility of designing complex networks which allow the right people to access the right data – securely and efficiently – makes SD WAN unbeatable. This, despite something called ‘SASE’ which we’ll discuss in future blogs, so watch this space.
There’s also powerful reporting. This is where we’ve seen the biggest difference.
Our customers are gaining real intelligence – not just samples of data. They can now meaningfully understand what their networks are doing, not just the volume of traffic being consumed. They can see which users, applications or web sites are consuming that bandwidth, building a detailed picture over time in ways that just weren’t available before, outside of using expensive (and often incomplete) network performance orchestration tools.
Effective reporting is important. It helps you make better decisions. Without it how do you answer questions like “should we move this service to the cloud” if you don’t truly know how that application behaves or where the data flows?
The case for SD WAN is crystal clear. When it comes to rolling out SD WAN as part of any network infrastructure, we are now at a point where we should be asking “why not?” over “why?”.
Stay tuned for more blogs and insight on future networking technology trends as well as details about our forthcoming webinars.