How Much Does SD-WAN Cost?

How Much Does SD-WAN Cost?

Ricardo Belmar
Sep. 4 2019

How much does SD-WAN cost? You’ve seen the ads from the solution vendors promising huge savings. But are they telling you the complete story? To do a real SD-WAN cost comparison—between solutions, or even between your current- and future-state WAN), we need to separate fact from fiction. Let’s take a closer look at the top misconceptions around SD-WAN cost savings.

SD-WAN Cost Savings Misconception 1:

If you’re using MPLS, you should expect major savings.

This is probably the most common claim you’ll hear. And the truth is, SD-WAN does give you more cost-effective WAN connectivity options than when relying solely on MPLS. But those huge savings numbers? They should have a huge asterisk next to them.
Here’s how it works: Look at the cost for a given MPLS WAN circuit. Compare that to using Internet bandwidth instead. Voila, big savings! The problem is, those savings are only real if you’re planning to completely rip out your current MPLS WAN network and replace it with 100% Internet access. And most businesses (more than 60%, according to most analysts) are not.
Ripping and replacing your WAN is extremely disruptive. And the bigger your business, the more disruption you can expect. A large enterprise could take a year to go through this process—with a year’s worth of costly interruptions to the employees and customers conducting business at those sites.

SD-WAN Cost Savings Misconception 2:

Costs are the most important reason to buy SD-WAN.

SD-WAN does offer better economics than a conventional MPLS-only WAN. But that’s different than “cost savings.” Because, as noted, most businesses adopting SD-WAN will keep using MPLS. Where they’ll take advantage of Internet bandwidth is when adding capacity at branches. Either way, your net connectivity spending is going up. You’re getting “virtual” cost savings against future purchases you haven’t actually made.
A more accurate way to look at it: SD-WAN makes it less expensive to build a better network. A good SD-WAN will help you increase bandwidth to your sites, improve quality of experience (QoE) for your users, and improve performance of your cloud applications. Those benefits can translate to increased productivity and revenue growth. Which, for most businesses, are much smarter reasons to invest in SD-WAN than expected top-line savings.

SD-WAN Cost Savings Misconception 3:

SD-WAN automatically accelerates digital transformation.

The thing about those productivity and performance benefits? They don’t just happen automatically. You have to be using an “application-aware” SD-WAN built to deliver those outcomes. And many solutions out there don’t. According to Forrester research, just 22% of companies using basic SD-WAN solutions saw improved application performance and QoE.

SD-WAN Cost Savings Misconception 4:

SD-WAN automatically makes cloud migration easier.

A similar scenario unfolds when it comes to cloud. Some businesses adopt SD-WAN with the goal of shifting most branch traffic to Internet access, assuming that direct access will automatically translate to better cloud application performance. Here again, many end up disappointed.
Companies opening up their branches to direct Internet access can quickly find themselves dealing with a new problem: shadow IT. All of a sudden, departments are using their own cloud applications outside IT approval or control. Some represent a major security risk. All of them add congestion to the WAN. And, if you’re using a basic SD-WAN, you have no way to know which traffic is coming from legitimate corporate applications.
That traffic clogging up your branch connection and disrupting voice-over-IP? Maybe it’s legitimate RingCentral or Skype traffic. Or, maybe it’s employees goofing off on Twitch. To see the difference—and prioritize critical business traffic—your SD-WAN needs to provide granular visibility down to the user and session level. And most solutions out there don’t.

Make a Smarter SD-WAN Cost Comparison

So, how much does SD-WAN cost? It's a bigger conversation.

SD-WAN can bring big benefits to your business, and improved economics are very much part of that story. But make sure you understand what those economics look like for real-world businesses. And, once you’ve prioritized what you want to get from your SD-WAN investment, make sure you choose a solution that can actually deliver.

Talk to our experts to learn more, and get a complete understanding of "how much does SD-WAN cost?" for your business.

Written By

Learn why digital transformation requires a smarter SD-WAN

Get the Forrester Report