5 Criteria for Evaluating Managed SD-WAN Solutions

5 Criteria for Evaluating Managed SD-WAN Solutions

SD-WAN has made networking sexy again. There are lots of choices that can help meet your business needs and enhance your company's network. The key drivers behind SD-WAN adoption are cloud computing, bandwidth requirements, branch office connectivity and cost savings.

SD-WAN can make your network more agile with centralized control and management. A managed SD-WAN solution lets organizations more rapidly deploy new sites, optimize cloud connectivity and support bandwidth hungry applications.

While organizations with deep network engineering expertise might choose the do-it-yourself approach, there can be considerable implementation and system dependencies. For this reason, many IT organizations choose to work with a managed service provider that has the engineering expertise, ability to integrate SD-WAN into existing WAN environments, 24x7 monitoring and ongoing support.

If your organization is considering managed SD-WAN solution, here are five things to consider when evaluating a service partner.

1. FULLY MANAGED

Choosing a managed SD-WAN solution yields several key benefits. However, for enterprises that elect to deploy a managed SD-WAN service over a DIY model, it's important to understand what "managed" entails.

Will the managed service provider deploy and manage the solution end-to-end including equipment, networks, SLAs, routing policies? Will IT managers have control over and visibility into the solution? A fully managed solution should ensure that your organization has visibility and control over your network, while still taking advantage of the managed services capabilities of the provider.

It's critical for enterprises to carefully consider, compare and contrast the various solutions that managed SD-WAN providers offer to ensure they select the solution best suited for their organization.

2. COST EFFECTIVE

The catalyst behind SD-WAN is to efficiently use any combination of public and private network connectivity to lower WAN connectivity costs and maximize WAN usage. Instead of using an Internet or a wireless link in a passive mode as a back-up link to a MPLS link, an SD-WAN solution should let enterprises use both services in an active-active mode.

3. SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENT

A managed SD-WAN service provider should be able to support a variety of WAN services globally, from MPLS to Internet and wireless, backed by service level agreements (SLA).

SLAs for network availability, latency, packet loss and jitter are critical in a hybrid network because performance guarantees are not the same as a private WAN. Further, SLAs that extend to SD-WAN customer premise equipment (CPE) is a key consideration given the repair or replacement time of the equipment is critical to ensure continued operations of SD-WAN locations.

4. FLEXIBILITY

Most enterprises that are evaluating an SD-WAN solution have some form of private WAN service. The ability to prioritize traffic (voice and video over IP, for example) over private links and ensure quality-of-service across applications are essential. Having access to application performance monitoring tools and analytics are foundational elements of an agile hybrid WAN solution.

Application-aware routing is a key feature of an SD-WAN solution. It enables the service to choose the optimal network path for bandwidth and quality of service based on particular application requirements.

Two valuable features that enable intelligent, on-demand application-based routing are path conditioning and dynamic path control (DPC). Path conditioning overcomes the adverse effects of dropped and out-of-order packets on best-effort Internet links to provide performance comparable to private networks.

DPC provides real-time traffic steering over any broadband or MPLS link based on company-defined business intent policies. In the event of an outage or brownout, DPC automatically fails-over to the secondary connection in under a second, ensuring uninterrupted service to end-users.

As your organization transitions to an SD-WAN, which at a minimum includes a combination of MPLS and Internet links, the managed service provider should be able to support these two features and extend monitoring and visibility tools to its managed SD-WAN solution.

5. TIERED SERVICES

SD-WAN requirements vary across business sizes and verticals and even within the same company across applications and locations. For example, a simple overlay might be sufficient to ensure high-speed access to and from retail locations to their cloud-based inventory system, but the retail outlet surveillance monitoring systems may require additional security mechanisms to ensure tamper-proof operations. Additionally, the point-of-sale terminals may require optimized and secure links to ensure compliance with PCI requirements.

The managed SD-WAN solution provider that your organization selects should be able to offer tiered services that support high, low and mission-critical application as well as those running on premises and in the cloud.

To learn about Masergy's tiered SD-WAN solutions, read our white paper "SD-WAN Delivers Performance Without Compromise."

About Paul Ruelas

Director, Product Management, Masergy
Paul Ruelas is Director of Network Products at Masergy. He brings over 26 years of expertise in telecommunications, IP Networks, complex solution design, and product development. Paul has developed many Ethernet and optical products that enabled numerous global enterprises to transform their data communication infrastructures to improve business outcomes. Paul is an industry thought leader in communication transformation and on topics such as hybrid networking, SDN, NFV, and cloud connectivity.

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