What You Should Know Before Choosing a Managed SD-WAN Service

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The growth and adoption of SD-WAN have continued strong through 2018 and we anticipate will continue into the next year. Gartner predicts the SD-WAN market to reach $1.3 billion by 2020. Early adopters were generally motivated by the cost savings and improved performance, but many today are driven to adopt it because of the agility of SD-WAN. However, SD-WAN can be deployed in several different distinct ways that enterprises can choose from.

SD-WAN as a Service (SDWaas) Defined

SDWaaS providers not only provide the hardware needed at each site, but will also include a virtual overlay network backbone, and additional features like security and centralized management. SDWaaS simplifies the network by eliminating appliance sprawl with seamless cloud-scale software. When packaged as a service, the customer doesn’t need to manage everything themselves and can leverage value-added services like SLAs.

Organizations that have deployed SD-WAN find the cost savings to be one of the most immediate benefits. WAN costs can be reduced by up to 90% because the dedicated private WAN connections, typically MPLS, are replaced with lower cost broadband connections. These cost savings and other benefits of SD-WAN in general – such as increased agility – also apply to SDWaaS.

Some may consider carrier-managed SD-WAN to be the same thing as SD-WAN as a service, but it’s important to note the differences. Cloud-hosted SD-WAN may also be confused with SDWaaS and organizations looking to choose an SD-WAN solution will want to understand how they differ.

How SDWaaS Differs from Alternative SD-WAN Solutions

Some SD-WAN vendors offer a service that uses service chaining that redirects traffic to security appliances or cloud security services for inspection. Physical security appliances will still need to be scaled, patched, and upgraded. The cloud security services only inspect Internet-bound traffic and focus only on HTTP/HTTPS traffic. Rather than an innovative solution, it’s merely bolting on security with limited benefits.

Carrier-managed SD-WAN may be offering their solution as a service, but in essence, they are just packaging a third-party SD-WAN vendor solution and third-party security appliances with the carrier network. So the service provider is still burdened with management and maintenance of all those devices. Getting service anywhere and everywhere becomes complicated as the customer is limited to what and where the carrier is willing to provide service.

Cloud-managed or cloud-hosted SD-WAN services host their management and control application in the cloud. The solution still requires SD-WAN nodes for path selection, and the service is run completely through Internet transports. This is a notable difference from SDWaaS that is built on privately-run backbones with SLAs for performance that compares to MPLS.

Considerations for Moving to SDWaaS

Many enterprises today are leveraging mobile and cloud-centric solutions. Because MPLS doesn’t extend to the cloud, nor address mobile users, organizations can address this need with SDWaaS that uses (1) software clients for mobile devices and (2) PoPs that are oftentimes co-located within the cloud providers datacenter. IT leaders are painfully aware of the high cost of MPLS that takes a large portion of the IT budget. Moving to SDWaaS can significantly reduce WAN bandwidth costs for organizations looking to optimize their spending.

Those same, high-cost MPLS connections are also difficult to provision and scale, with provisioning lead times of 4 months or more. Businesses looking for improved agility to scale bandwidth and bring new sites online can benefit from SDWaaS. New sites can be brought online instantly with 4G and switched over to Internet services as needed. Because SDWaaS has converged security and networking, security teams can meet the agility objectives too. In addition, some advanced networking and security advancements, such as Identity Awareness, are available.

Stuart Gall, Infrastructure Architect at Paysafe, made the move to SDWaaS for several reasons, but he appreciates having the agility to move bandwidth within the same billing domain. “If I close a location, I don’t lose the outstanding funds for that term. I just allocate the paid bandwidth to a different location. With MPLS, I’m locked into a three-year contract at each location, even if I just have to move one down the road.”

Making the Right Choice

IT teams are key player helping organizations decide the optimal way for SD-WAN to be implemented in terms of SD-WAN vendors, carrier-managed, cloud-hosted, and SDWaaS. Indeed, SDWaaS takes the next step in converging networking and security for today’s enterprise network requirements.