5 things you need to do before implementing SD-WAN

  • An SD-WAN is significantly different from a legacy network
  • Many benefits could be negated if the proper pre-work isn’t done

5 things you need to do before implementing SD-WANTHE software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) continues to pick up momentum as organisations look to evolve their networks to meet the demands of digital transformation, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other trends.
But how do you know if your business is ready to make this shift? An SD-WAN is significantly different from a legacy network and requires new ways of doing things.
READ ALSO: Telcos ripping out boxes: AT&T’s SDN journey
Here are the top five things companies should do prior to implanting an SD-WAN:
1) Make sure the infrastructure is ready
For some companies this might mean upgrading the hardware, and for some, software – but for most, it’s probably both.
It’s important here to think ‘end-to-end’ and ensure that all the infrastructure components are ‘SD-WAN ready’ before deployment.
If the goal is to migrate to an SD-WAN, then make sure the infrastructure is 100% ready to go before the project is started.
2) Do an application audit

5 things you need to do before implementing SD-WAN

To make the most of the SD-WAN deployment, businesses needs to have a sound understanding of what applications traverse the WAN and what traffic patterns are like.
It’s also important to know what dependencies the applications have, which ones are subject to what types of network issues – like packet loss, jitter, or delay – and how much bandwidth they consume.
Also, if a hybrid WAN is being used, network managers must understand which applications must run over MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) and which ones can run on broadband without a significant drop in performance.
[MPLS directs data from one network node to the next based on the short path label on the data packet, without actually examining the packet. – ED]
An application audit can answer all these questions and help organisations build an application strategy. Without it, the impact of an SD-WAN will be minimal.
3) Change the organisational structure
In most companies, the network, application, and compute teams work independently and interact very little with the other groups. This has never been ideal but was sufficient in a legacy IT world.
With SDNs, these IT sub-departments need to work together and be tightly integrated. Applications and compute infrastructure are highly dependent on the network today, meaning there will be a significant amount of cross-group collaboration required to ensure user productivity is not impacted.
4) Rethink IT security
Securing a legacy network certainly isn’t easy, but it’s straightforward as there are a minimal number of ingress/ egress points and attack surfaces.
With an SD-WAN, traffic patterns change, branch offices have direct Internet access, and the number of attack surfaces grows.
Traditional perimeter security tools are no longer effective in a software-defined world. It’s important to re-think security strategy and implement products that are continuously gathering network data, analysing it and looking for anomalies.
This will enable security to become more proactive versus reactive.
5) Evolve the skills of network operations

5 things you need to do before implementing SD-WAN

Even if the infrastructure is ready and the applications have been studied, the business needs a network operations team that can support it.
Managing virtual workloads, network architectures, orchestrating services, and analysing data requires significantly different skills than managing routers.
If the organisation doesn’t have the internal skills, consider using a managed service as a way of bridging the gap.
Evolving to an SD-WAN has a strong ROI (return on investment) for businesses but many of the benefits could be negated if the proper pre-work isn’t done.
Be aggressive with SD-WAN, but it’s important to ensure the organisation is ready.
Doug Farndale is the vice president of Asia Pacific at Silver Peak.
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