SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Tom Nolle
Tom Nolle is the president and founder of CIMI Corporation and the principal consultant/analyst. Tom started his career as a...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Tom Nolle | August 22, 2017 |

 
   

6 Questions to Ask Your SD-WAN Vendor

6 Questions to Ask Your SD-WAN Vendor The potentially transformative nature of this technology will lead to lots of hype. Before you start, figure out what you really need for your environment.

The potentially transformative nature of this technology will lead to lots of hype. Before you start, figure out what you really need for your environment.

Software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) are quickly gaining popularity, in no small part because vendors are applying them to a bunch of diverse missions -- so diverse, in fact, that users often complain they don't understand the offerings at all. To help cut through the market muck and evaluate your SD-WAN options, here are six questions you can ask your prospective suppliers.

The first question is obvious but often missed: What is the relationship between the SD-WAN and carrier WAN services? SD-WANs could be built over one Internet connection or several, could use MPLS VPNs as an option or not, and might expect other network features to be offered through your network connection. The SD-WAN market is in a state of transition, with some products designed for direct deployment by users and others for cooperative use within a carrier network. If you aren't careful with the network-to-SD-WAN relationship, you could end up with something that just won't work at all.

The second question is a bit more complicated: What is the information connection among the SD-WAN devices themselves? Generally, SD-WAN devices will build a private IP network on top of a set of "tunnels" or virtual wires that pass through one or more WAN services to connect all the SD-WAN devices. The connection mechanism can vary considerably -- for example, offering more or less additional overhead. If you want to manage the SD-WAN pipes using your current device or service management tools, you may want to be sure you're able to get statistics from some source on those connections.

Question three is an important one: What connectivity features does the product offer, and how are they controlled? Obviously, an SD-WAN product has to be able to route packets from each device to the correct destination device. That means a routing table, and how that table is built can be important. Is it adaptive, as it would be with routers, or do you configure specific addresses and destinations? How does it accommodate new subnets or users? Can you use the routing table to control who is allowed to connect with certain servers?

This is the area where you can expect the greatest variation in implementation, so you're going to want to spend some time on this one. If the vendor supports "discovery" or adaptive routing, you'll need to know what routing protocols it expects to use at the port connection in each of your locations. If you have to set up the routing table, you'll need to gauge how complicated it will be to do that in each of your sites, and that means finding out the number of subnets and how dynamic they are.

Question four is: What features does the SD-WAN device provide beyond basic connectivity? Some devices will offer encryption, firewall security, etc. Network professionals are divided in whether these features are helpful in SD-WAN applications; many already provide the capabilities through separate devices and don't want to displace their investments. If you don't need added features, you may pay more than you should -- not only in product price but in ongoing device management.

Pay particular attention to application acceleration and prioritization features. All devices can be loaded with more input than they can forward as output, resulting in queuing. Application acceleration can compress traffic to increase effective capacity. Prioritization features can let critical traffic jump ahead on that queue, reducing delay and improving performance. In addition, where SD-WAN devices offer multiple network connections (two ISPs, ISP plus VPN, etc.) routing traffic to one or the other based on priority may also be possible.

The fifth question is: How does your SD-WAN product detect congestion or failure, and what can it do about it? SD-WANs run on top of other services in some way. If the underlying services have a problem, mitigating it in various ways, depending on just what the underlying services are, is theoretically possible. For example, if an SD-WAN supports both MPLS VPNs and Internet transport, a VPN failure could result in a switch to the Internet. But how does the SD-WAN detect the failure?

IP networks generally react to failures at the TCP level, where the detection of missing or out-of-order packets and "time-outs" occurs. TCP doesn't usually run inside an SD-WAN box; it runs in the applications themselves. Those applications could be anywhere in the facility, and number in the thousands. Given that, would the SD-WAN device even detect a failure? If it does, could it switch over to another connection without creating problems with some applications? If your SD-WAN has no practical way of recovering from problems, why pay for the features?

The final question is: Does the product have a software-instance form linkable to a cloud component? Even if you're not a cloud user today, you're likely to have some cloud applications in the near future. SD-WANs that depend on physical devices are difficult to use with public cloud services, but a software-hosted version could link into cloud machine images. Be sure to check with what cloud/container services the product will work.

SD-WAN may become the transformative technology of this decade because it focuses on services rather than infrastructure. But that truth means it may also become the most-hyped technology. Ask questions and get your plans aligned with reality, or you'll risk the stability and security of your network.

Follow Tom Nolle on Google+!
Tom Nolle on Google+





COMMENTS



Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem


Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

November 29, 2017

As video conferencing use rises in the enterprise, businesses are looking for ways to bring this technology out of traditional conference room and make it more broadly accessible. That's made the h

November 1, 2017

Your customers (internal and external) demand that you offer them the ability to connect by any means. With the adoption of cloud communications tools you now have access to an expanded portfolio o

October 18, 2017

Microsofts recent Ignite event had some critically important announcements for enterprise communications. Namely, Microsofts new Team Collaboration offering, Teams, will be its primary communicatio

October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.