What’s on your SD-WAN buyer’s checklist?
Applications are evolving from ‘just’ supporting important business functions to being business critical enablers in themselves, facilitating everything from employee collaboration and customer engagements to asset management and recruitment.
But this ‘Age of the App’ has brought in new challenges for business users everywhere as their applications are no longer just hosted in the company network. They are instead distributed across local and remote DCs, hyperscale IaaS clouds and constantly shifting SaaS providers’ platforms. This means that in today’s global marketplace, users are often separated from their apps by countries, continents and oceans. The benefits of agility, cost and technical capability can come at a price though as users contend with a world of latency induced, slow and laggy app experiences. Fundamentally, the cloud broke the network.
Over the past few years I’ve worked with many of our customers on their SD-WAN implementations, and I’ve seen first-hand how when combined with other technologies such as WAN acceleration, it can overcome these issues, improving user experience and delivering a network that works with the cloud. However, it’s also clear that not all SD-WAN solutions are created equal, so what are some of the things to look out for when whittling down your shortlist?
- All in: Does the solution cover all your applications on all networks, whether accessed over the internet or a private WAN?
- Assurance: Does it provide end-to-end service levels for the performance of application connections?
- Predictability: How much variation in latency can you expect and what impact will it have on end users?
- Cloud growth: Does it provide additional capability for cloud connectivity in the network backbone or is that not included?
- Cost: Do you need to rip and replace existing investments?
- Up-skilling: Do you need to build in-house skills with support shifts to cover 24/7/365 operation?
Finally, the most important question to ask yourself is what does success look like to you? In my experience, most customers ultimately measure success by how responsive their apps become, how closely can they replicate the experience of on premise hosted apps. They want their services to feel as if the Internet has been brought into their own network. As one of our customers responded, when we asked how they measure the performance of their SD-WAN solution, “When we get no complaints about the bandwidth anymore, that’s the way we know it’s working well.”