Why do businesses look for SD-WAN solutions? What kind of challenges are they experiencing? Why do businesses want to change how their business locations and end users connect?
This is the first of 3 posts where we discuss the needs for SD-WAN within business networks, the different ways to implement and lastly the benefits of partnering with an MSP for a Managed approach to SD-WAN.
Short and simple, the traffic across networks continues to increase, and so too are business networks. In fact, global network traffic size is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.7% from 2021 to 2028 and even higher for small-to-medium sized businesses of 10.3% during the respective period. Businesses purchase various software and applications and then realize that their network is limiting them from achieving their goals. It’s become very labor-intensive for them to log into many devices to manage their network.
Current Trends & Challenges
Today’s business environments are seeing a lot of challenges in the following ways:
- Mobile devices on the corporate network, BYOD, and guest access are straining corporate LAN and WAN
- IT staff struggling with how to manage security during growth
- Poor end-user and application experience
- High-cost interest services from multiple carriers
As trends continue and companies undergo digital transformation, they are embracing more software-as-a-service (SaaS) and public cloud applications. In a prior time, they relied on applications and services running on servers in their office locations. Now they are moving to a business model where they rely on that being provided as a service, where those applications run on hardware located elsewhere. So businesses need to understand how to manage their networks in this new way, how to secure them, and be able to provide a reliable end-user experience so that end-users can achieve what’s needed. They also need to figure out how to connect all their locations, decide what type of internet services are needed at each, and what type of carriers they need to embrace in order to achieve a holistic environment. This all focuses on a company’s network, how it’s set up, and how it’s managed.
This identifies software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) as a need within business networks. SD-WAN is a virtual WAN architecture that allows businesses to leverage any combination of transport services, such as broadband, MPLS, LTE, to securely connect users to applications. SD-WAN uses a centralized control function to steer traffic securely and intelligently across the WAN and directly to trusted SaaS providers. This increases application performance and delivers a high-quality user experience, which increases business productivity and agility and reduces IT costs. This is why we are seeing businesses of all sizes adopting SD-WAN at an exponential rate. For instance, an in-depth analysis of industry insights shows that the market is expected to have an estimated Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 31.2% between 2022 and 2030. Significant contributors to this growth are small to medium businesses (SMBs). Prior to SD-WAN availability, SMBs were limited to offering goods and services globally and having a distributed workforce across multiple locations because it needed to be more of an operating cost to bear. With SD-WAN and a highly competitive landscape, SMBs can leverage SD-WAN to reduce operating expenses while leveraging multiple links to low-cost local internet lines.
Selections: Things to Consider
Deploying an SD-WAN solution can be very complex and includes a combination of three key elements when selecting the right components:
- Hardware Vendor – There is a hardware component to SD-WAN that connects the business’ local network to the internet. It’s essential to select the right solution provider based on business needs. For instance, is the hardware standalone, or can it be integrated into business activities, such as security? New vendors are popping up in the market, and being able to identify their ability to withstand and stay within the market to provide long-term support is something to consider.
- Carrier Selections – This depends on where the business locations operate. Are all locations in one geographical area or spread out and across territories? So, they’ll need to identify if they need local, regional, or national coverage and then figure out which carriers they trust.
- Connection Types – What kind of access is required at each location? Choices exist from direct internet access, broadband, LTE, and the combination of those for primary and failover connections.
Finding the right partner to work with will help businesses achieve their goals here.
Implementation: Things to Consider
After having selected the right components, there’s a list of things to consider on the implementation front.
- Hardware, Licensing & Maintenance Contracts – SD-WAN hardware selected for each site which includes licensing and maintenance contracts the business will need to own.
- Circuit Procurement with Independent Lead Time – Whether all the circuits are available from a single carrier or come from multiple carriers. Are they different technology types? What type of bandwidth will be needed for each location? And knowing when each will become available by the vendor to know how to roll out the solution.
It’s important to note that the contracts for the hardware licenses and the circuits may not align, so it’s important to keep that in mind for renewal purposes.
- Hardware Configuration & Shipping for Deployments at Each Site – Depending on the size of the business and the number of locations, it can take months or over a year, or even more, to roll out the solution. So, it’s imperative to consider this timeline, along with hardware licensing and circuit contract dates.
- Installation, Delivery & Activation – The actual deployments in the field of the SD-WAN devices, the scheduling and the turning up of the circuits, and the activation and testing.
So, there are many things to look at during the implementation cycle.
Once everything is all set up from an implementation standpoint, there are things to consider regarding maintenance. Businesses need to document everything and keep the information current in the event their support teams need to reach out to hardware manufacturers or carriers for help. Or if changes are required during the lifecycle of the service. This includes:
- Circuit diagrams
- Network diagrams
- Hardware and license inventory for asset management
- Configuration files for deployed hardware
- IP address schema for each site
- Contact numbers and internal helpdesk, carrier, and vendor helpdesks
- All the due diligence in maintaining each site’s network and IP address schema
- All the different contacts from carriers and hardware manufacturers that need to be kept all together in case support teams need to reach out to individuals
Stay tuned for the next post where we continue this discussion and get into the pitfalls to avoid in DIY SD-WAN.