Managed SD-WAN Services – What You Need to Know

Find out everything there is to know about managed SD-WAN services.

Mar 27th 2018 A-A+

In today’s cloud driven IT ecosystem, SD-WAN can enable business to access better bandwidth, optimize communication and drive interoperability with their branches, remote locations and partner networks. Advantages such as flexibility, configurability and centralized network management, are quickly translating to largescale adoption of SD-WAN technology, especially within large, geographically distributed organizations.

Organizations looking to implement SD-WAN across their environment need to address a number of issues around design, implementation, management, support and transformation. They would, more often than not, require a specialized managed service provider that could meet a wide range of needs. Here are some of the key areas where a managed services partner adds significant value: 

SD-WAN Design: Every business is different, and therefore design considerations have to be carefully weighed before implementation. For example, banking and financial service companies have high volumes of financial data being transacted between branches and centralized systems. The data security, availability and regulatory compliance needs are, therefore much more stringent, as compared to, say an e-commerce company. Other design considerations include data types / formats, real-time streaming data needs, integration with third-party / cloud applications and SLAs around latency / availability. 

Organizations are also moving towards hybrid WAN options (SD-WAN overlaid on traditional MPLS networks), adding a new level of complexity to network design. Hybrid WAN’s allow organizations to leverage their current investments in network infrastructure and take a measured approach to SD-WAN implementation.  Designing an effective hybrid WAN needs a deep understanding of the existing WAN architecture and identify which parts of the current network can be evolved or modified to use broadband internet (replacing traditional MPLS). 

SD-WAN Implementation: Generally, implementation can be grounds-up (replacing existing systems) or overlaid (hybrid WAN). Both have their advantages and limitations. Complete, big-bang approaches are understood to be cost and resource intensive, and often carry some amount of operational risk. The primary advantage of this approach is centralized and unified control of all network resources and traffic. Hybrid WANs are finding greater traction because of lower risk and faster implementation.

SD-WAN implementations also need to address key concerns around network performance, integration and security.

•    In order to achieve high performance levels (in line with or exceeding earlier SLAs), SD-WANs should have the ability to effectively orchestrate network resources and traffic. Implementation teams and engineers must have a strong understanding of optimal network architectures to ensure the highest levels of performance.

•    Implementation teams need to ensure effective integration and interoperability with a wide range of applications, within the enterprise, with partners and cloud applications (SaaS based or cloud-hosted). This is easier said than done, since teams have to deal with a wide variety of data formats, platforms, data warehouse architectures and interfaces.

•    Moving to a new, internet-based architecture also means new security challenges. MPLS, being a private network, did not require encryption, unless the data needed to pass through public networks (broadband internet). However, SD-WAN is internet-based, and encryption therefore becomes a vital component.
In most cases, organizations often do not have the skills or resource bandwidth to implement SD-WAN. A managed service partner can provide the much needed technical and architectural expertise for these activities.

SD-WAN Management and Support: SD-WAN implementations generally involve a wide variety of network services such as application aware networking, network health monitoring, automated provisioning and ticket management. Managing an SD-WAN also involves handling diverse challenges across a wide range of applications, platforms and devices, often spread nationwide (or worldwide).  Managing this in-house is an extremely challenging task. Companies that want to manage their network infrastructure in-house often end up creating a large amount of Capital Expense. 

By leveraging a managed service provider, they can free-up internal resources, avoid resource shortages and handle business spikes without investing in additional people or infrastructure. The managed services model therefore allows companies to align strongly with SLAs and lower Capex considerably.

SD-WAN Transformation: The SD-WAN technology market is evolving at a rapid pace, with significant investments being made in advanced analytics, application awareness and platform independence. As businesses grow and technology evolves, companies will need to continuously track the SD-WAN product landscape, evaluate new offerings and make decisions around build, buy or pay-as-you-go. They also need to understand how new products and features need to be adapted to meet the unique needs of each business process. This requires a significant amount of management bandwidth, technology expertise and business analysis capabilities. 

Leading managed service providers such as Netmagic are constantly tracking the space to offer their customers the most optimal architecture and product features that meet specific business needs. A managed service partner can offer a carefully curated set of services from the ecosystem of network vendors and service providers. They can also provide the much needed infrastructure support and carrier independence, two crucial components of an effective SD-WAN strategy.

Questions to Ask Your Managed SD-WAN Service Partner

Whether your organization is currently engaged with or planning to partner with a managed service provider, here are a few key areas that you need to check for:

•    What is the managed service provider’s total experience with WAN deployments, particularly Hybrid WAN?
•    Has the service designed SD-WAN architecture for companies within your industry?
•    Are there any specific frameworks of approaches that the service provider uses for SD-WAN implementation, management, SLA adherence and support? 
•    How does the service provider monitor and enhance network configurations (manual or automatic)?
•    What are the different types of analytics tools and dashboards provided / used (e.g. network performance,  change request)?
•    Does the service provider have automated mechanisms for provisioning & scalability?
•    Does the service provider have reliable cloud infrastructure (in-house or through partners) to manage network      load optimally?
•    Can the service provider manage both SD-WAN and traditional MPLS networks?

And finally, does the managed service provider have the flexibility, scale and worldwide presence to drive global SD-WAN implementations. Netmagic, being a part of NTT Communications and also a partner to Nuage Networks for SD-WAN services, is a great managed services option for organizations that wish to design, implement and manage a globally scalable SD-WAN strategy that meets worldwide quality and performance benchmarks.