by Brian Promes
Competitive pressures and changes in the business environment are pushing many organizations toward digital transformation. Enterprises, communication services providers, and managed services companies are all trying to leverage digital technologies and change in their business processes to build in more speed, agility and efficiency.
Once they decide to do so, organizations can make changes quickly in some parts of their network operations. Where many of them struggle, however, is out at the end of their WANs, where entities such as branch offices and retail locations reside.
Developing branch connectivity strategies used to be fairly straightforward. IT or network operations teams would determine the quality of service and reliability required, and then budget for the dedicated MPLS links required to meet the need. Solving the branch connectivity puzzle is now a much more complicated task.
Today there are fewer applications in corporate data centers and more in the cloud. There is skyrocketing demand for bandwidth, but also times when that demand fluctuates wildly. There also are lower-cost transport options available.
These variables have changed the branch connectivity equation. The trick is being able to steer traffic quickly and automatically to the most cost-effective path given present network conditions and the transport quality required. That is precisely what software-defined (SD) WANs are designed to do. Augmenting traditional WANs, SD-WANs can provide reliable, high-quality branch connectivity while lowering costs.
Despite their compelling benefits, however, SD WAN adoption in the enterprise is in its infancy. One of the main reasons for this is the transitional risk. For many IT teams, SD-WANs involved too many unknowns, so making the change presented too many potential risks.
Given how critical network services are today, IT teams tend to avoid making big changes to their infrastructures in one fell swoop. It’s just too risky. Instead, they make changes strategically, transitioning their infrastructures in incremental, closely managed phases.
The phased approach to implementing SD-WAN mitigates the risk of major outages and other widespread problems. However, it increases complexity because during the transition, and perhaps permanently, the organization needs to take a hybrid approach, running two or more environments simultaneously, and joining the existing WAN with the new SD-WAN infrastructure.
The problem stems from the fact that most SD-WAN vendors provide management tools that only focus on their systems’ components. They do not extend in any way to the monitoring requirements of the existing WAN, and do nothing to close the visibility gaps between the two environments. As a result, organizations need to purchase separate monitoring tools, then attempt to cobble together their outputs to get a broad view of their networks’ activity and status.
This visibility problem gets much worse when organizations opt for multi-vendor SD-WAN implementations. The more ‘flavors’ of networking that are involved, the more complicated, time-consuming and expensive it is to monitor and manage them.
In order to monitor and manage network performance holistically in a heterogeneous network environment, teams require a platform capable of integrating with and gathering performance data across the entire WAN infrastructure.
Gartner says that 1 percent of enterprises have SD-WAN solutions deployed today. But the promise of cost savings and performance improvements will drive that number to more than 30 percent by 2019, analysts say.
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Brian leads SevOne product marketing and alliance-marketing strategies for cloud, virtualization, and software defined everything. Brian joined SevOne with over 20 years experience in the network management and monitoring space at Novell and Cisco, where he focused primarily on product management, product marketing and strategic alliance efforts of early stage products for emerging technologies in enterprise and service provider markets. Brian believes in enabling customers and partners to integrate products and technologies via open APIs and interfaces to solve the individual customer needs, earning two US Patents (US06584507 and US 06957256) for Linking External Applications to a Network Management System.