SD WAN implementations can be tricky, which can undermine the success of your project. But with the right advice and help, it’s possible to reap all the benefits of SD WAN and more. Here’s how to get started—and what to watch out for.
If you belong to one of the 92% of companies—which according to the State of SD-WAN Study -is expected to adopt SD WAN, you have probably spent plenty of time learning about the technology.
You have likely read what SD WAN is all about (link to article 1), and what its multiple benefits are, (link to article 2), especially for global, geographically spread-out organisations. It’s even possible you’ve invested time trying to understand how to select an SD WAN technology provider (link to article 3).
Now it’s time to roll up those sleeves and get started. But what is your execution strategy? What are the first steps you should take? And what dangers should you avoid? Remember, this stage—when you are planning an SD WAN implementation—is among the most critical to the success of your project. A lack of a comprehensive plan—one that takes into account different stakeholders, application needs, and skill constraints—can result in SD WAN initiatives that go over-budget, witness delays, suffer from architectural errors, or worse, fail. Badly-planned SD WAN deployments do not address the needs of your business, and can create challenges in the future as your organisation decides to migrate more workloads to the cloud, or adopt a SASE (secure access service edge) model.
Here are three recommendations to keep in mind before you start:
Define Your Goals—and Build a Business Case
This might sound obvious, but it is important to define—clearly and upfront—why your organisation wants to leverage SD WAN. More than a few companies have launched SD WAN initiatives drawn in by the buzz around the technology, and not necessarily grounded in a clear business or use case. This path leads to almost certain unhappiness.
Here are a few use cases—and good reasons—to adopt SD WAN. Which of these most resembles your organisation’s needs?
- We want to connect our branches…better. What are the two biggest worries IT teams have with branch offices? User complaints of sluggish applications, and cybersecurity threats. SD WANs help solve both these challenges. With SD WANs users can connect branches to both cloud-based resources and those in central data centres more directly, more securely, and with more control. This results in enhanced performance of branch applications, higher user satisfaction, and lower costs. Leveraging SD WANs to connect branches improves your ability to monitor network health, and uptime by bringing them deeper into the network management fold. A growing number of businesses are embracing SD WAN because they need to connect branches directly to the Internet and cloud-based platforms, bypassing the data centre. In these cases, too, SD WAN can streamline and simplify break-outs, ensuring greater security and manageability.
- We’re migrating to the cloud...more. As organisations deploy cloud strategies to drive down costs, and drive up resilience, business agility and innovation, they come face to face with a fairly big hurdle: Existing WANs. While these—typically MPLS-based—networks served them well when traffic from branches, factories, warehouses, and retail stores, among others, were connected to a central data centre, they began to get in the way when companies adopted cloud services such as Salesforce, for example. Traffic from remote locations is unnecessarily backhauled to the data centre, and then dispatched to the cloud, adding latency and inefficiency. With SD WANs, traffic can be routed directly and securely from any location to cloud platforms, while adhering to policy-based rules.
- We want the benefits of increased visibility and centralised management to be…enhanced. With SD WANs, network administrators can utilise software-powered overlays and centralised orchestrators to keep tabs on WANs. This allows SD WANs to offer much better network visibility and management than traditional networking models. The result? You can improve capacity planning and connectivity costs; shrink congestion, resolution and failover time; and increase application uptime and performance. The visibility and control that SD WANs provide also increases flexibility and resilience, renders network management more cost-efficient, and empowers administrators to launch new locations, remotely, in a matter of hours.
This is not a comprehensive list of use cases for SD WANs, but it will help crystallise your team’s thinking and help answer a key question: What’s the business case for our SD WAN project? Digging deeper into the reasons you want to adopt SD WAN can help finesse the outcomes you hope to achieve, making it easier to land on the metrics that define success—and ground an SD WAN initiative on a financial basis. Is your business expanding geographically, and will an SD WAN help accelerate the speed-to-value of getting new locations live? What’s cost to the business of not having this capability? Answering questions such as these can often require creating a baseline, which can then serve to better gauge whether deploying an SD WAN will create the right amount of ROI (return on investment).
Start Small—and Learn Fast
SD WAN initiatives can be complex, with many moving parts, and a number of location-specific variables. This is why attempting a big-bang, multi-region roll-out can be fraught with danger. It is strategically sound to start small, observe how applications perform in a new environment, and fine-tune the solution—rather than having to re-engineer a full-fledged SD-WAN deployment.
It is also a good idea because it is important for the long-term success of an SD WAN project to create small wins—at the start—to generate positive momentum within the organisation and its business users.
A good practice is to run proof of concepts or small experiments at sites that are not business critical. This approach de-risks the business while still serving to help your team understand the potential and non-obvious challenges that are associated with an SD WAN project. It will help answer critical questions such as: How does the new technology affect existing applications? How much automation are we able to achieve? How much faster are we able to deploy new sites? Does SD WAN meet quality-of-service expectations, across a range of employee types? How do different workloads—ERP, CRM, business intelligence, disaster recovery, among others—react within an SD WAN? Remember not all applications have the same needs. Some are sensitive to latency and delays, others to packet loss, yet others to jitter and bandwidth variance.
These smaller, less-risky undertakings form a foundation for learning, which will come handy when you decide to scale up an SD WAN deployment. They also serve as a testbed to help gauge the results of your project, allowing you to monitor how it stacks up against pre-defined success metrics.
Choose a Deployment Model—That’s Aligned to Your Needs
There are a number of approaches to deploying SD WANs. These include:
There are a number of approaches to deploying SD WANs. These include:
- DIY (Do-it-Yourself)
Each of these strategies have pros and cons, which makes it important to evaluate them and work out the right approach for your specific business.
DIY Approach: Do-It-Yourself models are best-suited for organisations that have IT teams with a deep set of networking skills. It requires that internal professionals—preferably with a mature NetOps practices—are responsible for provisioning, managing, optimising, and troubleshooting SD WANs. This approach, because of its talent requirements, is not very popular.
Managed Approach. These types of deployments come in two flavours: Fully-managed—in which a service provider takes full responsibility of the end-to-end deployment and maintenance of an SD WAN—and co-managed, in which internal teams share responsibilities with service providers. Typically, internal teams are not burdened with day-to-day network maintenance tasks, but are still in charge of important decisions, and sometimes play a role in resolution management.
Managed SD WAN models have, over time, become the pre-dominant way businesses chose to deploy SD WANs, with 77% of organisations opting for it, according to a Survey by consulting firm, Altman Solon.
It’s a popular choice for good reason. Given the technical complexities, and the multi-stakeholder challenges involved in standing up and operating an SD WAN, many companies see the benefits of accessing the competencies and best practices that come with partnering with a managed service provider (MSP).
TM Global—the global and wholesale business arm of Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM)—offers a managed service model, in which it is responsible for the entire SD WAN deployment, from end-to-end. With its professional services, TM Global can help design an SD WAN tailored to your organisation’s constraints and future-plans. Its managed service experts can source, execute, monitor, and optimise SD WANs, complete with a 24x7 contact centre and local field support.
TM Global offers Global SD WAN packages in three flavours: SD-Lite, a cost-effective, Internet-based solution; SD-Pro for businesses which require a mix of private and public links to support both mission-critical and non-core applications; and SD-Flex, an a-la-carte option for enterprises that need the flexibility of working with existing connectivity contracts.
With TM Global, you also get an enhanced security suite; SD-WAN dashboards and analytics to monitor the network; and Cloud-on-Ramp capabilities for improved network performance, especially of SaaS services such as Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce.
TM Global’s SD WAN covers over 190 countries, and supports multiple network topologies, including hub-spoke, full mesh, partial mesh. It offers a range of connectivity types—from 1 Mbps to 10Gbps—including broadband Internet, dedicated Internet access (DIA), mobile LTE, IPVPN, satellite, and global private meshed backbone. Additionally, it has a BYOC (Bring Your Own Connectivity) option.
Speak to a TM Global’s SD WAN expert today. Set your organisation on a path that enables it to tap into the full range of benefits SD WANs can offer including improved network security, manageability, agility, and costs.