SD-WAN is slated to change the way networks are managed by organizations, by giving IT teams the ability to manage traffic and provision network resources dynamically, from a centralized location. This is a long way ahead of the traditional WAN setups where each branch needed to be configured, one at a time, with no easy way to administer a single, unified policy across the network. The benefits, in terms of time-to-market, network performance, cost savings, etc. are significant and rather obvious.
As more and more organizations prepare to transition their distributed networks to SD-WAN, IT teams will have to ramp up their understanding of this new paradigm. Of course, the implementation of SD-WAN across the enterprise will require detailed planning and structured execution. Also, like any major enterprise-wide implementation program CIOs should expect a few bottlenecks along the way. Working closely with a Managed Service Provider like NTT Communications India/Netmagic will help address some of the major CIO concerns, such as:
1. Getting a consolidated view of enterprise connectivity
As organizations grow and evolve, so do their networks. In most organizations, the WAN typically consists of a diverse range of components and technologies. It may consist of a mix of legacy MPLS circuits, sub-optimal routers, security devices and network optimization appliances. A WAN is generally quite complex and getting a complete, consolidated view of remote infrastructure and bandwidth requires a significant amount of time and effort. However, this is critical for IT teams to get an understanding of business needs across the enterprise and define policies that align with business priorities.
2. Integration concerns
SD-WAN appliances need to have seamless integration with WAN optimization appliances, routers, security devices and other network components. This needs to be done in a manner where the SD-WAN appliance is able to identify the type of traffic and prioritize this as per pre-assigned policies. Integration teams need to be acutely aware of the challenges involved in integration, and must have the technical knowhow to ensure optimal traffic management.
3. Defining and managing policies
Businesses and IT teams need to collaborate and come up with a clear articulation of business objective and network policies. An inability to gather adequate business information to define policies appropriately, may have a significant impact on the business. Policies will also need to be reassessed and realigned with changing business needs, on a regular basis. This is one of the most critical components of SD-WAN implementation, since it has a direct bearing on all stakeholders using the network.
4. Differing architectures and deployment models
With the growing adoption of cloud based applications and infrastructure, we are quickly transitioning into the hybrid IT world. The network challenges in this new, cloud-based IT environment are completely different from traditional WAN architectures. SD-WAN is much better aligned to incorporate a wide variety of traditional and new channels. CIOs must factor the complete bandwidth needs of the organization, going beyond traditional WAN usage when designing their SD-WAN architecture.
5. Managing change
At an operational level, implementation of an SD-WAN also means that teams will need to build new skills around performance analytics, network optimization, new control panels / dashboards, etc.
On the ground, it will involve moving hardware professionals away from their conventional roles, such as localized troubleshooting, equipment configuration, etc. Organizations would do well to work closely with their Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to handle these and other challenges. NTT Communications India and Netmagic actually have the ability to provide SD-WAN as a managed service, along with a complete suite of services around network, security, DR and storage (hosted, collocated or cloud-based) that allow CIOs to create a unified strategy for their SD-WAN implementation.