All SD-WANs are not created equal

All SD-WANs are not created equal

Your current WAN isn’t fit for purpose. In order to reap all of its technical, commercial and operational benefits, you should be moving to an SD-WAN. Or so the marketing people tell us.

But are these benefits achievable in a real-world scenario? They can be, but only if you choose your SD-WAN vendor and provider carefully.

Your choice of SD-WAN Solution provider is important

Some larger service providers will deliver an SD-WAN solution that, in reality, is not much different from their Managed Network service.

Often, the carrier will utilise some of the benefits of an SD-WAN to simplify their back-end processes or lower their running costs. Whether these benefits are passed on to you, however, is up to the carrier and is not a given. You should look carefully at their offerings, as you risk losing out on some of the major benefits of an SD-WAN and ending up with a “Managed Network”.

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Underlay function

One of the major benefits of an SD-WAN is the de-coupling of the overlay function (routing, application-steering, multipath operation, self-healing) from the underlay connectivity (MPLS, internet, broadband, 4G/5G). However, the best way for a large carrier/service provider to make a customer “sticky” is to tie them to their own underlay core network for the term of the solution (3, 4, 5 years or more).

But, a good deal on day 1 may not look so good in a few years’ time when connectivity options have evolved, both commercially and technologically.

While most companies require robust SLAs on underlay networks in order to give guaranteed Quality of Experience, there is no reason this needs to come from the same supplier as your SD-WAN. A single “throat to choke” is a great selling point, but it doesn’t mean you have to put all your eggs into one supplier basket. You risk losing out on one of the major benefits of an SD-WAN and ending up with a “Managed Network”.

SD-WAN Orchestration platforms

Another major benefit of an SD-WAN is a single, central platform for configuration, orchestration, management and monitoring. This allows for large-scale rollouts and management with simple, centralised rules.

With additional (Software-Defined) features - such as Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA), cloud security and branch-based NFV functions - being added to the SD-WAN, central management becomes even more of a benefit.

Many large service providers will not give direct customer access to these platforms, instead preferring to hide the raw information behind their own portal. While this can give the end-customer a consistent view across their SD-WAN and other legacy services from the Service Provider, it often obfuscates the very powerful data available from the SD-WAN platform.

In order to gain all the benefits of an SD-WAN, you should be able to consume it the exact way the vendor designed it. The vendor knows what their platform is capable of and will make sure the orchestrator gives access to all the tools required to use the solution to its full potential. This transparency is important for end-customers to ensure they're getting the service their SD-WAN promises.

Having access to the raw SD-WAN platform also ensures that new features and functions can be made available to the customer as soon as they are available, rather than having to wait for API upgrades and interoperability testing with a service provider’s own portal.

If you do not have direct access to the vendor SD-WAN platform, once again, you risk losing out on one of the major benefits of an SD-WAN and ending up back with a “Managed Network”.

Cost reduction

One of the oft-discussed benefits of an SD-WAN is a reduction in costs versus a legacy WAN.

Although an SD-WAN isn’t automatically cheaper, it enables customers to remove expensive underlay networks and instead use a mix of underlay technologies from a range of providers. These providers may vary, depending on location and the requirements of each edge location.

An SD-WAN solution sourced from a large service provider is likely to be based on an underlay network built on their own core network. This is because they're heavily invested in their own technology and are looking to see a healthy ROI. However, the end result is the customer not getting the most cost-effective underlay network.

We'll say it one final time: this means you risk losing out on one of the major benefits of an SD-WAN and ending up with a “Managed Network”.

The Breeze Networks solution

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The verdict is in: many large service providers cannot offer you the unchained benefits of SD-WAN.

But that doesn't mean all is lost. 

By buying an SD-WAN from Breeze Networks (powered by VMware), you'll receive all the benefits of an SD-WAN and not just the ones that your service provider thinks you should have access to.

If you'd like to see our SD-WAN solution in action, download a copy of a successful case study below. 

Read a real-world SD-WAN use case

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