As a Network Operator, when considering SD-WAN technology, beware some wrong assumptions deriving from information which has either always been inaccurate or has become obsolete over time as SD-WAN technology has matured.
Misconception #1: SD-WAN is yet another name for WAN optimisation
While it is true that WAN optimisation and SD-WAN both focus on solving bandwidth limitations between remote sites over leased lines, the two technologies fully diverge from an execution standpoint. The goal of WAN optimisation is to reduce bandwidth demand using compression, traffic shaping and data deduplication to avoid bottlenecks. WAN optimisation does also not address latency or performance issues. SD-WAN, on the other hand, exploits two or more WAN links in an active/active manner by creating more bandwidth without compression side effects while also identifying and prioritising data or applications to be sent across specific channels towards their destination.
Ultimately, most network architects have abandoned WAN optimisation in favour of SD-WAN – or they combine the two technologies.
Misconception #2: SD-WAN is wiping out MPLS
This information is inaccurate, at least for the time being. Of course, SD-WAN can replace MPLS lines with lower-cost Internet broadband links. However, this is not always what customers need: as remote locations grow and application requirements change, MPLS is still a reference WAN technology for reliable throughput and predictable network latency. For this reason Network Operators should assume that MPLS will be part of their WAN for a good while, even if they choose to deploy SD-WAN.
Misconception #3: SD-WAN provides LAN-like performance in a WAN
This point is primarily mentioned by end-customers rather than by Network Providers. Nonetheless, it is important to know that SD-WAN technologies can improve remote network performance by continuously evaluating throughput capacity, packet loss, latency and other characteristics across two or more WAN links. But the SD-WAN network as a whole will be only as fast and reliable as the combined WAN links deployed for it. SD-WAN doesn’t deliver LAN-like capabilities but a WAN with built-in advanced application performance intelligence.
Misconception #4: SD-WAN guarantees cost savings from scratch
Long-term cost savings and major operational enhancements are guaranteed once Network Operators implement SD-WAN technologies to serve their customers. But, to do so, they face high initial costs both to provide such offering and correctly dimension it, as the demand for bandwidth and cloud-connectivity is rapidly increasing. SD-WAN infrastructures delivered as-a-service to Network Operators and MSPs, with a DIY or fully managed formula are a viable alternative to reduce CAPEX.
Misconception #5: SD-WAN is not conceived for managing multi-cloud environments
This information is obsolete. Network Operators can now easily implement most enterprise-grade SD-WAN technologies inside the most popular cloud networks. Using Internet broadband, dedicated WAN connectivity or centrally located third party point-of-presence (PoP) sites, SD-WAN can operate in and between multiple public clouds as if they were a singularly managed network.
These misconceptions about SD-WAN can undermine the ROI of deploying this technology in your WAN infrastructure. Be sure to ask for information on how SD-WAN can benefit your organisation from a performance and ROI perspective. The more accurate your current planning, the more you’ll profit from SD-WAN in the future.