Many industry experts are saying 2017 will be the year SD-WAN sees mainstream adoption. In fact, an IDC survey of 200 enterprise communications professionals found that 30 percent of participants plan to migrate to SD-WAN by 2018. A rapid growth like this in such a short period of time means one thing: The time to begin positioning SD-WAN is now.
Before speaking with customers about SD-WAN, technology advisors first need to learn the common themes that drive businesses to purchase it. From our experience, we’ve found that the following benefits have been effective in furthering the SD-WAN discussion with businesses:
Ability to Prioritize Applications
Perhaps the biggest draw to SD-WAN is the ability to prioritize application flow to enhance the user experience. A survey by Talari Networks found that 35.5 percent of 400 IT executives noted their most impactful pain point is network disruption that negatively affects critical app performance. SD-WAN solves this challenge. As an overlay technology, it sits on top of the network and ties underlying MPLS and/or internet connections together so it can dynamically route mission-critical traffic down the best available path.
All IT needs to do is log into a central software platform and indicate which apps should be top priority. After depicting the source and classification rules of apps, the software autonomously takes care of the rest. For example, if there is an issue with the high-bandwidth connection a business is sending its voice traffic through, SD-WAN will automatically redirect that traffic over a clearer path to ensure call quality is unaffected. As a result, the business can continue to make calls and stay productive during bandwidth shortages. The same goes for other critical apps like Office 365 and Salesforce. These can be prioritized over less important traffic from streaming services like YouTube so they are always responsive.
For years, MPLS has been leveraging QoS for management and prioritization of applications. Typically provided with 4-6 different “buckets” of QoS, a MPLS customer would assign basic web traffic and email to the bottom buckets, leaving the top 2-4 buckets for their high-priority and critical applications. If a business employed numerous apps, then they would inevitably have to make concessions when grouping them into the remaining QoS buckets. SD-WAN allows a business to uniquely prioritize each individual app based on their needs. This feature provides businesses with an unprecedented amount of control over the performance of the apps on their network.
Ease of Management
According to a survey from IDC, 31 percent of businesses are motivated to adopt SD-WAN because of its reduced complexity regarding network management. That’s because many IT departments are spread thin. If there happens to be an issue at a branch location, they have to travel to that site to resolve the problem, spending time and money that could have otherwise been invested in revenue-generating activity.
SD-WAN solves this issue, simplifying network management by allowing IT to remotely deploy and configure branches from one central platform. Deployment is so easy that it can be done in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take with MPLS. For instance, when GAP switched over to an SD-WAN solution, it was able to deploy 40 new locations in a night as opposed to just two with MPLS.
Keep in mind that this benefit is attractive to IT staffs because much of their time is spent performing tedious and arduous management tasks that can easily be automated. By positioning SD-WAN as a solution that will help them complete these tasks more efficiently so they can focus more time and effort into strategic initiatives, you’re bound to get the attention of not only the IT team, but the C-Suite as well.
Network Performance and Uptime
Another perk of SD-WAN is its performance and uptime strengths. Many businesses keep a backup connection for failover purposes, but it goes unused unless an emergency occurs. Although this link is dormant a majority of the time, a business still needs to pay for it. Through dynamic load balancing, SD-WAN can activate this connection and push traffic through it to ensure the business gets the most out of all the bandwidth it’s paying for.
This ability to move traffic across different WAN lines without interruption provides reliable failover and improves performance. Because SD-WAN can distribute traffic across all connections and always sends priority apps down the best available path, a business can continue to be productive. For example, if the main link that transmits voice and critical data traffic goes down, SD-WAN will send that traffic through another link within the network to ensure calls can still be made and data can still be accessed.
Flexibility with Carrier Connections
Many customers’ networks are comprised of multiple connection types from different carriers. This makes for a complex infrastructure that is difficult to support and automate. SD-WAN simplifies this by sitting on top of the business’s network and centrally managing all connections underneath it. This means that if the business already has all of the underlying pieces, the SD-WAN will tie them together to simplify complexity, reduce lifecycle costs, and boost agility.
SD-WAN enables engineers to easily automate any combination of carrier solutions. The true benefit here is that the customer doesn’t have to rip and replace its entire infrastructure. For example, if a customer purchases SD-WAN from Verizon, all connections underneath it do not need to be provided by Verizon in order for it to function efficiently. The customer can keep its current infrastructure as is and simply layer SD-WAN on top to bring it all together.
This is most beneficial to companies with numerous small offices that are geographically dispersed. These businesses are often forced to sign up with multiple carriers because, most of the time, one carrier will not accommodate their needs for connectivity at various locations. SD-WAN makes so all of these connections can be managed through one platform, regardless of carrier.
Although these are the standout benefits for customers, it’s important to note that there are many more worth discussing. SD-WAN is a groundbreaking technology that has a long list of end-user benefits that make it revolutionary. Because of this, it’s important that you know the value of the solution from top to bottom so you can effectively advise your clients.
About the Author
Adam Dawson was TBI’s Marketing Communications Manager. As the organization’s wordsmith, he was responsible for creating engaging content and carrying out internal and external communications programs. This includes circulating information to TBI’s agent partners, educating them on hot topics in the industry and guiding them to the best provider products and solutions for their portfolios.