SD-WAN Deployment Guide

SD-WAN Deployment Guide: 5 Key Questions to Ask

Ricardo Belmar
Oct. 24 2019

You’re sold on SD-WAN, and you believe the technology could really benefit your business. Before you start cutting over circuits though, take the time to think through your deployment plan and expectations. Here is our SD-WAN deployment guide and the top five questions you should be asking.

1. What type of SD-WAN deployment do you actually want?

Before you get into SD-WAN details, you have to decide the type of deployment you want to pursue. Do you want to completely replace your existing WAN infrastructure with SD-WAN? Or, will you add SD-WAN to your branches “over-the-top” (OTT), while keeping the existing connectivity in place?

Each approach has pluses and minuses. If your top priority is reducing upfront connectivity costs, rip-and-replace can make sense. But expect it to take a long time (12-18 months for a large enterprise) and be very disruptive in the interim. If your goals are focused around adding capacity for new users and applications, improving user experience, simplifying management, or just realizing any of these business benefits at all sites more quickly, OTT is the better choice.

2. What cost benefits do you expect to realize from the SD-WAN deployment?

Along the same lines, it’s important to think deeply on the question of costs. Many SD-WAN solution vendors still advertise big upfront cost savings of SD-WAN compared to MPLS. Increasingly though, real-world businesses are augmenting MPLS rather than replacing it, and prioritizing other kinds of savings.

If you’re taking the OTT approach, make sure you’re capturing the full cost advantages you expect: Shorter time-to-value for new application investments. Simpler management. Faster onboarding of new applications and users. Reduced helpdesk calls thanks to improved application performance and user experience. Each of those benefits affects the bottom line.

3. How much visibility do you need from your SD-WAN deployment?

One key SD-WAN success factor that often gets overlooked: deep visibility into what’s running on your network. The WAN environment for many businesses has grown enormously complex. You likely can see how the network itself is performing in terms of availability, throughput, capacity utilization. Those are all fine metrics, but they don’t tell you anything about how individual applications are performing, or how they’re experienced by users. At the end of the day, isn’t that what matters most to your business?

Make sure your SD-WAN solution can give you application-level, or even session-level detail. And not just visibility—you should be able to control and optimize the performance and user experience for those applications that matter most.

4. How will you be sure your SD-WAN deployment can do what you need?

A running theme in this guide is shaping your SD-WAN around your unique business priorities. That’s because the mix of applications your WAN carries, and which matter most to branch users, are different for every business.

Knowing that, it’s essential to make sure you’ve actually tried out the SD-WAN in your environment. Whatever your priorities—cost savings, enhanced security, improved cloud application performance—test every solution on your shortlist. See for yourself how well each solution handles the things that matter most to your business.  

5. Should you go it alone for your SD-WAN deployment?

Once you settle on your solution and approach, one big choice remains: Should you deploy and operate the SD-WAN solution on your own, or consume it as a managed service? Here again, there are benefits and drawbacks to both models.

The type of deployment you’re pursuing can also have implications here. If you’re going rip-and-replace, the way your integration partner manages the process will play a big role in how painful it is. Make sure you’re working with a partner who has experience with networks of a similar size and scope as yours. Whether you’re going WAN overhaul or OTT, make sure the partner is skilled at the capabilities that align with your key goals. If you’re looking to simplify management with deeper application awareness, for example, make sure you undertake an in-depth discovery phase to ensure that they can recognize and optimize the applications you actually use.

Start your SD-WAN journey

SD-WAN can represent a big change for your business, but done right, can be deployed with minimal friction and little risk. Just make sure you have clear expectations for what you’ll gain from the solution—and what your technology and partners can deliver.

Launch the right way. See the three most common mistakes that can jeopardize your SD-WAN deployment.

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