The SD-WAN Starter Kit: Is there a best practice for enterprise digital transformation?

We’re in a new era of networking expectations. Driven by major digital transformation projects at the enterprise level, SD-WAN technology has emerged as a compelling solution to satisfy demands for increasingly evolved networks. Its greater flexibility, programmability and control are all highly desirable functions which enable service providers to ensure the performance quality, and efficiency of business-critical networks.

As with any significant upgrade, however, SD-WAN also brings deployment challenges and costs. These complexities have created barriers for many service providers, who have struggled to make the business case for SD-WAN, especially for smaller enterprise sites and SME customers. Luckily, the SD-WAN market is evolving in support of a more tailored, open, and strategic approach to empower enterprises and service providers. But with various and differing solutions on offer, navigating ‘the right path’ to SD-WAN can be tough. So, when time and resources are stretched, is there a best practice formula to follow?

Building the Business Case for SD-WAN

Sadly not, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. That said, there are several factors that can and should contribute to a broader SD-WAN adoption strategy and enable service providers and enterprises to get off to a good start.

Love your legacy?

Extending MPLS systems does not offer the flexibility and agility needed to access cloud resources and design policies per application. Put simply, you need SD-WAN. But does that mean it’s time to clear the decks of legacy services?

Not quite. For service providers, there’s a real opportunity to expand existing relationships and tap-in to new revenues by offering SD-WAN as a managed service. Reviewing a solution that can be integrated into the core portfolio of your carrier-grade legacy services enables a win-win: maintaining existing partnerships and business models while empowering customers to ‘switch on’ additional capacity, automation and application management when they need it.

After all, enterprises are not asking to get rid of their MPLS services, rather, they are asking how they can get greater agility and control over their application traffic management and cloud access. A managed SD-WAN approach also relieves the time and resource pressure on enterprises to leverage capacity from the internet and implement their own ‘DIY’ SD-WAN solution.

Keep it simple

Deployment and maintenance should be low cost and as easy as possible. The cost of launching a managed SD-WAN solution is mainly operational, rather than related to SD-WAN technologies. A zero-touch provisioning solution can be invaluable here, saving time, cost and technical complexities associated with site intervention. While ‘off-the-shelf’ SD-WAN solutions have commonly required additional hardware, new solutions that can leverage existing hardware, or be added as an extension, are now changing the market. By enabling SD-WAN to feature as one of a number of functions within a single box, both management requirements and costs can be dramatically reduced.

Open-up to new ideas

Selecting a solution based on its openness can be a game changer, and one that protects SD-WAN investment in the longer-term. Submitting to vendor lock-in not only leads to higher pricing, it also restricts innovation in the kinds of services that can be delivered. With an open solution, integrating new services from third parties is not only possible, it’s very plausible. An open solution can, of course, still support those ‘big brand’ services if that’s what your enterprise, or customer, requires.

Using open technologies can significantly streamline certification, testing and re-certification programmes too.

Pay for what you need, and nothing more

Having decided that SD-WAN is the right way to go, how do you and/or your customers, zero in on what is needed?

Many off-the-shelf solutions deliver far more than is actually ever required, and this latent functionality is rolled into the bill, needlessly increasing TCO. An SMB simply trying to extend its network with local break-out doesn’t need the same SD-WAN solution as a large enterprise that has business critical applications to protect to ensure business continuity. Developing clear projections for the applications and likely capacity needed before entering the market should go some way to highlighting the benefits of opting for a modular offering from a smaller specialist, instead of buying-by-default from the big brands. As well as promoting cost-efficiency, this is also a brilliant way to ensure your chosen SD-WAN solution is flexible and future-proof. By definition, a modular solution allows you to scale in response to new requirements further down the line. 

A more mature approach

A few years on from initial deployments, the SD-WAN market has started to mature and broaden its appeal. Diversification, driven by specialists that really understand the operational and commercial context in which decisions are being made, is enabling a more measured, more tailored and, frankly, more strategic approach to adoption. For the first time, SD-WAN is available as part of a healthy evolution of existing networks, rather than a complex and costly revolution.

To support the need of SMEs or small sites of large enterprises for open, low-cost and easy-to-deploy SD-WAN, EKINOPS has launched a true multi-tier, multi-tenant, one-box SD-WAN solution. The first SD-WAN solution available as an extension of a branch routing device, this software-defined approach enables service providers to simply ‘switch on’ SD-WAN at a time and pace that suits, with minimal deployment complexity and no impact to legacy services. With two distinct ‘flavours’ of SD-WAN, solutions can be highly tailored to each service providers' individual requirements.

Ready to start your SD-WAN journey? Learn more about EKINOPS SD-WAN solutions.