Deploying SD-WAN for the first time? Four pitfalls to avoid

December 16, 2020

1 min read

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As the reality of world-wide lockdowns and the move to home working took shape during COVID-19, businesses worked quickly to deliver their services digitally. Throughout 2020, the focus was not only on digital transformation, but on digital acceleration. Combined with globalisation and users demanding better digital experiences, businesses are looking to technology to drive agility, flexibility and cost efficiency.

From conferences and events shifting to webinar style formats to the uptake in cloud-based team collaboration applications, the widespread adoption of "cloud first" strategies signifies that the Internet is fast becoming the preferred method of managing communication across an organisation’s branch network.

This is why many corporations are looking to software-defined networking (SDN) solutions to create digital business platforms that offer flexibility, innovation and control. Businesses can optimise the variable connectivity, bandwidth, and security needs of cloud through solutions such as software-defined networking in a wide area network (SD-WAN).

SD-WAN empowers businesses to orchestrate a range of networking technologies, with easy deployment and central management, and the intelligence to automatically adjust traffic flows between multiple links for better Internet connectivity.

And, while it’s expected that 60 per cent of enterprises will have implemented SD-WAN by 2023, up from less than 20 per cent in 2019, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution and it comes with its share of complexity. As outlined in Telstra’s Ultimate SD-WAN Guide, there are a number of considerations to make to ensure your deployment is successful.

Four pitfalls to keep top of mind

1. Expecting SD-WAN alone to reduce network costs

We often see SD-WAN positioned as the solution for spiraling network management costs and application performance problems. SD-WAN deployments may help to reduce carriage link costs, but you should factor in the total cost of design, deployment and ongoing management in your network strategy. And, while SD-WAN delivers more performance ‘bang for your buck’, it is unlikely to be a major cost efficiency gain on its own.

Instead, you must consider the full benefits enabled by the new use cases, improved resiliency and SaaS performance, organisational agility, and speed-to-market that SD-WAN delivers.

2. Defaulting to your current hardware vendor

Regardless of your business objectives, the reality is that some vendors will recommend their own services and devices, even if their capabilities aren’t best suited to meet your requirements.

There’s a wide variety of SD-WAN technologies on the market – from entry-level to full-featured managed services, but to get the most business value and ensure you’re making the right investment you must evaluate the hardware against the use case and your business demands.

3. Assuming SD-WAN removes the need for multi-protocol label switching (MPLS)

COVID-19 has driven a significant move towards online collaboration, and a key driver for SD-WAN adoption is to create a more agile and cost-efficient network. But few organisations will use the Internet exclusively for their corporate data traffic.

SD-WAN allows you to build hybrid networks and use multiple access technologies, though considerations such as security requirements for critical data or the need for high-speed core connectivity for certain applications remain.

SD-WAN enables the management and orchestration of these hybrid network services, but it may not remove the need for MPLS completely. You may still rely upon MPLS to give you predictable application performance, at least during the transition mode of operation whilst your workloads are being migrated and optimised for cloud hosting.

4. You must combine best-of-breed solutions

It’s tempting to combine best-of-breed solutions from multiple vendors, however they can become hard to manage and restrict your ability to make changes in the future.

Choosing to adopt one ecosystem might not provide you with market-leading features in every area, but it may be easier to manage and optimise. Ultimately, your decisions should be driven by your business needs rather than the technology type.

Overall, your business can achieve better value from your network, increased resiliency, improved user experience and better network management options by implementing SD-WAN. It will not necessarily save you carriage costs, remove the need for MPLS or fix underlying WAN issues.

At Telstra, we help our customers adopt an end-to-end SD-WAN strategy that is based on boosting performance levels, improving business agility, simplifying network management and increasing security. To understand where your business is in the SD-WAN journey, and how SD-WAN can support your growth, take our Adaptive Networks quiz here.

Are you ready to discover how SD-WAN can support your enterprise growth? Click here to book a no-obligation session with one of our technical experts now.