SD-WAN is a high-momentum segment of the networking industry. Depending on how you count and which analyst firm you follow, the number of SD-WAN vendors that are currently on the market is at 20 or more. Actual revenue is still relatively small (around $150 million run rate for 2017), but many enterprises are looking to incorporate SD-WAN into their 2018 IT budgets.
What are the business drivers for SD-WAN?
First and foremost, it seems that MPLS cost reduction is the primary driver, at least when considering SD-WAN.
SD-WAN incorporates the idea of 'hybrid WAN', which mixes expensive MPLS services with high-capacity and inexpensive Internet services to reduce the overall cost of connectivity. Enterprises take a hybrid approach (also called MPLS augmentation projects) in order to maintain a transport that has predictable latency, packet loss, and availability. These attributes are often not available with 'best effort' Internet services.
But, if we keep MPLS, add Internet links, and spend on the SD-WAN solution itself, how can IT save money? There are several answers to this question.
5 Ways IT Departments Can Save Resources with SD-WAN
1. SD-WAN may be justified as a cost avoidance technology.
If a customer needs to add MPLS capacity, it may be less expensive to deploy an SD-WAN, move traffic onto inexpensive Internet links and increase their capacity. Customers get more network capacity without the costs of an MPLS upgrade.
2. SD-WAN offers more than just WAN edge devices.
Advanced SD-WAN solutions offer not only WAN edge devices that manage the hybrid WAN, but also an affordable global SLA-backed backbone that can replace MPLS altogether. Enterprises can build a roadmap to deploy a hybrid WAN, first, and then gradually move all traffic to the SD-WAN service. In this scenario, MPLS services will not be renewed upon contract expiration.
In addition, many organizations already use a mix of MPLS and Internet services in global locations. Remote locations that only use Internet services, because MPLS is either not available or because it is cost prohibitive, could be a prime target for global SD-WAN.
3. SD-WAN can extend to address network security requirements
SD-WAN enables secure direct Internet access at remote locations, without the need to backhaul traffic to a data center for secure internet access. By integrating a comprehensive network security solution with the SD-WAN platform, customers can realize:
- Incremental savings through security appliance elimination, when using edge firewalls
- Security appliance avoidance, when backhauling and using centralized firewalls
4. SD-WAN extends the WAN to cloud applications and data centers
Using various protocol and routing optimizations, SD-WAN can better connect the enterprise with a cloud service, such as Office 365. Some SD-WAN solutions extend the WAN, which traditionally only connected physical locations, to mobile users so they can also benefit from optimized connectivity to on-premises and cloud-based applications.
The overall benefit is enhanced end user productivity, especially when the enterprise network traffic shifts from 'inward' focus to the data center, to an 'outward' focus to the cloud.
5. SD-WAN offers additional 'soft' business benefits, such as agility and automation
Agility is achieved via zero-touch provisioning, which enables enterprises to spin up a new location instantly without local engineering expertise.
The mix of underlying data services connecting locations is dynamically incorporated into the SD-WAN. Companies can connect locations with any available data service, such as 4G/LTE, or broadband services. The SD-WAN compensates for the strengths and limitations of the services.
The combination of zero-touch provisioning and transport-independence allows new locations to get working immediately and migrate to MPLS, if that’s even desired, when the MPLS line becomes available.
Automation simplifies network management. The widespread use of policies enables SD-WAN to automate many of the most tedious WAN tasks. Configuration policies, for example, are retrieved during the zero-touch provisioning process, automating the configuration of new locations.
Policy-based routing allows networking teams to dynamically route traffic based on application priority and underlying transport quality. Failover policies eliminate the need to manually configure networking equipment in the event of blackout or brownout conditions, reducing the time-to-respond to outages and the impact of human errors.
The combination of these value drivers establishes the business case for SD-WAN. The more value drivers your SD-WAN vendor can address — MPLS augmentation and replacement, security footprint reduction, cloud and mobile access optimization, and improved WAN agility and automation — the quicker you will realize the return on your SD-WAN investment.