All SD-WAN Solutions Are Not Created Equal

SD-WAN is all the rage in 2017 and there are good reasons for its rising popularity. SD-WAN is a game-changing technology that maximizes bandwidth resources at your headquarters, branch offices, or cloud sites by enabling quality of service (QoS) controls over the top of any WAN connection. All this said, SD-WAN solutions aren’t all the same. They use different platforms and deployment options and it’s important to do your homework before choosing the SD-WAN solution that’s right for your organization.

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN, short for Software-Defined Wide Area Networking, employs a software-based controller that automates service management and implements policy-based routing over multiple connection types (e.g., MPLS, Internet, wireless, etc.).

SD-WAN essentially adds a layer of intelligence that provides real-time control and visibility over network and application performance. This, in turn, lets you boost your bandwidth with widely available, low-cost broadband by overcoming the security, reliability and performance challenges to using the Internet for critical business applications.

The many benefits of SD-WAN are readily acknowledged by industry analysts and CIOs alike. Indeed, research firm IDC found that half of U.S. enterprises were considering migrating to SD-WAN in the next two years.

What are your SD-WAN options?

If you’re thinking about moving to SD-WAN, you’re in good company. But when shopping for SD-WAN, make sure you understand the potential differences among solutions. Here are a few key questions you should ask, keeping your applications, staff capabilities and organizational preferences in mind:

Is it software or service?
At the highest level, there are two primary approaches to deploying SD-WAN. The first is to buy a software platform and implement it in your network environment. The second is to subscribe to a service-based solution, wherein the SD-WAN platform is delivered as a service by a managed service provider like TPx.

Is the solution managed?
A managed service provider typically offers engineering support for the initial SD-WAN deployment as well as ongoing monitoring and management. Some – like TPx – may even manage third-party network providers. In an unmanaged scenario, your organization deploys and manages its own SD-WAN technology and deals with phone-based carrier support.

Does it support over-the-top (OTT) deployments?
Many providers require at least one of their own network circuits to be used in the SD-WAN solution; others, like TPx, will deploy their SD-WAN solution on top of any Internet connection regardless of the provider.

What network continuity options are available?
Some providers offer continuity for Internet only or their own provided circuits. TPx provides active/active continuity for Internet, MPLS, Customer Provided circuit, all in active/active mode so you can utilize the bandwidth you’ve paid for. Additionally, TPx offers cost-effective 4G LTE.

Is it compatible with MPLS-based VPNs?
Some SD-WAN providers offer solutions that do not integrate with firewalls and thus are incompatible with MPLS-based VPNs. Other SD-WAN providers, like TPx, incorporate security (e.g., firewall, IPsec, encryption, etc.) and can enable a hybrid WAN by extending your MPLS VPN to remote locations over low-cost, high-bandwidth Internet connections.

Does the solution support WAN optimization?
Some platforms support WAN optimization natively, while others either don’t support it or require third-party integrations. TPx offers link aggregation, TCP optimization, forward error correction (FEC) and other optimization features that are critical to supporting real-time application performance.

Is it a capital or operational IT expenditure?
Some SD-WAN solutions require an upfront spend on software licenses and hardware. TPx offers a subscription-based service, with an easy upgrade path to any of its ITx for WAN solutions once the Managed Service Router is installed on premises.

How experienced are the Engineering and Support teams?
Some providers are new to the SD-WAN game, but not TPx. TPx has been working closely with SD-WAN vendors – not their sales teams, but their engineers and developers – for almost two and a half years.

Armed with these questions, you can align your company’s objectives with the SD-WAN capabilities of a provider like TPx to improve the performance and cost-efficiency of your network.

About the Author

Jared Martin, Vice President of ITx Managed Services at TPx

Jared Martin has been in the Information Technology world for more than 20 years. He co-founded a managed services voice and Internet service provider in 2001 and grew the business to significant revenue. In 2008, that company was sold to Tel West Communications, which in turn was acquired by TPx in 2012. Jared has been a technology leader in driving change and adoption of new technologies, such as Software-Defined Wide Area Networking. He is always looking for new ways to use technologies that are outside of the box and to influence TPx to innovate and to be on the cutting edge. In 2016, Jared took charge of TPx’s new ITx line of business, formed as a result of the recent merger of TelePacific and DSCI. This brought Jared back to his roots of providing managed services and a consultative sales approach to customers.