What To Look For in a SD-WAN Vendor

March 20, 2018

MPLS networks have been the standard configuration for enterprise networks for years, providing predictability and availability. However dependable, MPLS comes with its own set of challenges, such as expensive connectivity and long deployment times.  MPLS is much more expensive compared to standard Internet, and can take anywhere from 60-120 days to provision. MPLS also doesn’t address cloud or mobile traffic, which is a major issue for enterprises. Security policies for MPLS based networks need to be managed at each site and the various appliances must be continuously updated and upgraded.

Many organizations today are choosing to migrate to SD-WAN (software-defined wide area network), because it can eliminate the challenges of MPLS networks.  SD-WAN brings software defined networking (SDN) to the WAN, improving WAN management and increasing cost savings when compared against MPLS. There are many SD-WAN providers available, so it’s important to know what key features to look for in an SD-WAN solution.

Here are six points to consider when choosing an SD-WAN provider:

Beyond Basic SD-WAN

Every SD-WAN connects locations by definition. When considering deployment options, think beyond branch offices and remember your network consists for other entities. Check that the SD-WAN can also connect cloud datacenters, cloud applications, and mobile users.

Simple Deployment

Deploying a new site with SD-WAN should be fast and simple. Zero-touch provisioning allows a site to be brought up without requiring a technical person on-site to configure the SD-WAN device.  It just needs to be connected and powered up, and downloads its configuration from a predefined server or location.

Availability

Migrating to SD-WAN shouldn’t mean compromising on availability. In fact with active/active configurations, SD-WAN can provide better uptime than MPLS.

All too often, companies connect locations to an MPLS service with an individual line. As a result, they remain susceptible to line failures from cable cuts, router misconfigurations, and other physical plant problems. Active/active protects against such failures by using redundant active lines to connect locations to the SD-WAN. Should one line fail, traffic can be instantly diverted to the alternate connection.

Performance

Whether moving to a hybrid solution or moving completely to SD-WAN, performance is critical. Look for a provider that has its own SLA-backed backbone for consistent long-haul performance. This is particularly important for global networks where the Internet middle mile is often too inconsistent for enterprises. Additionally, overall performance will be degraded if the SD-WAN solution doesn’t effectively detect brownouts or blackouts. Any SD-WAN solution should also be capable of prioritizing real-time traffic over non-real-time traffic.

Security

Encryption and segmentation are basic, must-have security features for any SD-WAN. Some SD-WAN solutions also provide rudimentary firewalls. This still doesn’t protect against malware and other application-layer attacks.  To enhance network security, some providers offer security service insertion from a 3rd party vendor. However, a provider that can offer integrated cloud-based security services is preferred as it can be more easily managed by the network security administrator.

Management

Improved manageability as compared to MPLS is a key feature of SD-WAN. Look for a provider that offers centralized management capabilities with the ability to easily monitor the entire network. This eliminates the need for multiple tools or platforms for monitoring performance, availability, and security. In order to maintain the simplicity that SD-WAN can provide, don’t add features that aren’t  needed in your environment.

There are many points and features to consider when choosing an SD-WAN vendor to fit your business needs.  The points covered here are key considerations when making the best choice for your organization’s successful move to SD-WAN. For more information , visit https://www.topsdwanvendors.com/ for a list of top SD-WAN vendors. Also take a look at  Cato Network’s blog for more information on various SD-WAN topics such as Global SD-WAN as a Service, and securing your SD WAN network.

Dave Greenfield

Dave Greenfield

Dave Greenfield is a veteran of IT industry. He’s spent more than 20 years as an award-winning journalist and independent technology consultant. Today, he serves as a secure networking evangelist for Cato Networks.