SD-WAN Testing

In SD-WAN Testing, the Benchmark that Matters Is Your Own

Ricardo Belmar
Jul. 23 2019

When it comes to SD-WAN testing, third-party benchmarks won’t give you much insight. To see how a solution really performs, you have to test it in your own unique environment.

If you’re evaluating software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN), you’d probably like some objective benchmarks to help you compare different vendors’ solutions. Google “SD-WAN testing,” and you can find plenty of third-party test reports. Unfortunately, even when neutral third parties scrupulously compare solutions, the results they produce won’t do you much good.

Business networks are like snowflakes: no two are exactly the same. The only way to get concrete, useful SD-WAN performance data is to test solutions in your own unique environment, with your real-world business applications.

What’s Wrong with Third-Party SD-WAN Testing?

It’s easy to find SD-WAN testing benchmarks, with multiple analysts comparing parameters across all major solutions. But, if your goal is to find the one that will deliver the best application experiences for your users (and that should be the top objective for any SD-WAN migration), those results won’t do you much good. Because, while different analysts test different characteristics, most typically stick to the basics:

  • How does the SD-WAN solution handle routing?
  • How well does it do path selection?
  • How effective is its security?

Knowing the answers to those questions can provide a marginally useful baseline. But it won’t tell you anything about the actual experience for people using applications on your network. In fact, most third-party comparisons don’t even ask that question, seemingly assuming that effective routing, path selection, etc. automatically translates to better application experiences. Unfortunately, that is not at all the case.

Measure what Matters in SD-WAN Testing

Before making a final decision on your SD-WAN investment, make sure you’re evaluating how the solution performs from the user’s perspective, not just the IT manager’s. The only way to do it: measure how different solutions perform with your unique mix of business applications and usage patterns.

For example, say Skype for Business is one of your organization’s most important apps. Well, then you definitely want to test out Skype calling when comparing solutions.
•    Which SD-WAN solution delivers the clearest, most consistent call quality?
•    Which does best handling multiple simultaneous Skype calls from a single branch site?
•    Which maintains the best performance for Skype calls under heavy network loads?

Be sure to measure the user experience while running other challenging applications in the background. You could kick off a five-Gigabyte file transfer, for example, while launching three Skype calls. Some SD-WAN solutions will handle those conditions better than others. Some might not allow all the calls to go through. Or, you might find that all calls go through, but one has choppy audio during the file transfer, because the solution has no way to protect it. If Skype is critical to your business, that’s information you need to know before you buy.

It’s All About Your Users

Go ahead and look at SD-WAN testing benchmarks, but make sure you’re placing them in the proper context. Poor results on the basics can indeed help you eliminate some solutions from your list of possibilities. But, in a world where your applications are the lifeblood of your business, user experience is the critical benchmark. No outside party can tell you definitively what the SD-WAN experience will be for your users; you have to measure that for yourself.

Want to see how Ipanema—an SD-WAN designed from the ground up to improve user experience—performs in your environment, with the applications that matter most to your business? Contact Infovista for a free demo and Application Visibility Assessment today.


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