With the introduction of software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN), network engineering changed. SD-WAN technology is both transformational and disruptive, and it requires organizations to embrace a new approach to wide-area network (WAN) design and operation—and the roles and responsibilities of network engineers.
This transformation has created some tension within organizations. But it’s a reality every IT department will face because applications, digital business, cloud access, and user expectations are evolving to the point where the WAN has to change.
Adoption is increasing, but challenges remain.
The SD-WAN market continues to grow. Gartner forecasts that 60% of enterprises will have implemented SD-WAN by 2023.1 It’s no surprise then that International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates the SD-WAN infrastructure market will reach $5.25 billion in 2023.2
From a technology and business perspective, SD-WAN offers many benefits: transport independence, bandwidth optimization, increased agility, improved application performance, simplified WAN operations, and the ability to extend cloud applications to the edge.
But realizing those benefits requires a shift in mindset and responsibilities. With SD-WAN, the hardware layer is abstracted; network engineers no longer need to issue command-line statements to configure devices or to route traffic, and the network can be provisioned via software without the traditional hardware and connectivity limitations. Also, telecom carriers—the organizations traditionally relied on to provide WAN connectivity and to manage circuits—no longer can be depended on solely for WAN network management.
Who will manage the WAN now?
These changes pose an essential question for network managers: If I implement SD-WAN, who will manage my wide-area network? There are two options: Hire or train staff on SD-WAN technologies and manage everything in-house or engage a managed services provider.
SD-WAN presents a radical change in WAN engineering. New skills are required. Network managers must hire and train people to design, implement, and manage the technology, as well as oversee telecom carriers and providers.
For some organizations, this is not a dramatic shift, because they already have mature telecom services departments experienced with managing carrier contracts and the money to invest in hiring and training resources on SD-WAN. As a result, they can continue to manage the WAN in-house and maximize control over all aspects of their wide-area network.
For organizations without mature telecom departments or large staffs, the shift to SD-WAN is more disruptive and managing an SD-WAN network poses difficult challenges, because they simply don’t have all the resources and experience they need to do it themselves.
SD-WAN Managed Services
Engaging a managed services provider (MSP) to manage SD-WAN networks offers several benefits. Here are seven reasons to consider SD-WAN Managed Services:
- Technical skills and expertise. Contracting with a services provider ensures organizations have access to the technical skills they need to be successful. The provider is responsible for SD-WAN skills, hiring, and training. Network managers don’t need to hire or retrain their people on the latest nuances of the technology. Instead, they can assign their resources to work on business-critical projects and rely on the provider to perform the day-to-day management tasks.
- Faster deployment. Migrating to SD-WAN requires planning and experienced people to carry out the implementation. An experienced managed services provider—one with many SD-WAN implementations to their credit—can make the process easier and lead to a faster migration.
- Operational efficiency. With an MSP, network engineers can focus the majority of their time on strategic projects—like cloud access and application programming—instead of splitting their time between working on projects and performing network configuration and maintenance tasks. Plus, with a dedicated MSP team monitoring the SD-WAN network, problems are identified and resolved quickly and efficiently.
- Operational expenses. Hiring SD-WAN skilled people, retraining existing staff and providing on-going education increases costs. Managed services providers take on the responsibility of providing people with the right skills to design, implement, and manage the SD-WAN network, and that enables organizations to shift operational costs out of their organization.
- Application management. With SD-WAN, organizations can steer traffic to specific network connections based on the application and business needs. MSPs can monitor applications and make adjustments to load balance the network, optimize bandwidth utilization, and improve application performance.
- Carrier management. Managing telecom services and carrier contracts is time-consuming and tedious. MSPs can provide carrier management to complement an organization’s internal efforts by monitoring circuits, managing connectivity, and optimizing expenses.
- Security. Security should focus on improved and consistent policy to provide deep packet inspection, segmentation for users and applications, and varying levels of trust that often complicate the security policy enforcement at a multi-network egress point. Managed Secure SD-WAN services provide a simple, templated approach that will ensure the SD-WAN architecture aligns with the organization's security policy and ensures adequate security controls are the foundation for SD-WAN transport.
When it comes to managed services providers, there are a lot of options. What should organizations look for in a managed services provider for SD-WAN? SD-WAN experience is one: Has the provider done this before, and what is their track record? Secondly, the breadth of skills and capabilities is significant: Does the provider have the skills to design, implement, and manage a complex SD-WAN network?
Lastly, the scope of services offered by the provider should be assessed: Can the provider perform all the services needed—full policy management, security/firewall management, application management, analytics/visibility, and carrier/connectivity management—to manage an SD-WAN network?
ePlus provides technology and services to help organizations drive business outcomes and offers a full portfolio of managed services. For more information on how we can help you design, implement, and manage your SD-WAN network, complete the form below or contact your ePlus Account Executive.
1 “Forecast Analysis: Enterprise Networking Connectivity Growth Trends, Worldwide.” Gartner, September 20, 2019. https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3969496/forecast-analysis-enterprise-networking-connectivity-gro
2 “SD-WAN Infrastructure Market Poised to Reach $5.25 Billion in 2023, According to New IDC Forecast.” International Data Corporation (IDC), July 24, 2019. https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS45380319