3 Common SD-WAN Deployment Mistakes to Avoid

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

SD-WANs can be a great option for any organization, but the initial stages of deployment can be difficult. Here are some of the most common issues that arise at this stage.

Article 4 Minutes

Traditional wide-area networks (WANs) have been the backbone of many organizations’ communications for a long time. However, in this age of cloud computing, they’re no longer fit for purpose in many circumstances. Instead, many businesses are turning to software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) to meet their needs.

“SD-WAN provides dynamic, policy-based, application path selection across multiple WAN connections.”  - Gartner

 

In other words, rather than relying on a single transport service - such as broadband, multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) or long-term evolution (LTE) - SD-WAN uses a combination of these services to direct traffic across the network securely, quickly and intelligently.

If this sounds like something your organization could benefit from, you might well be right. As we rely more on the cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, SD-WAN is likely to become more common. However, don’t rush into it; companies often make mistakes with this technology. Here are three common errors you should look to avoid.

1. Not taking security into account

SD-WAN is generally seen as a more secure option, and rightly so. Networks can be set up with encrypted tunnels that can almost act like a VPN, and be relatively customizable to fit the needs of the organization. However, there are a range of different considerations that need taking into account.

It’s not enough to install an SD-WAN and simply assume it’ll be secure. However, it’s equally erroneous to go the other way and assume it isn’t secure at all.

“SD-WAN’s basic security offerings alone are not sufficient for an organization, especially with the growing cybersecurity threats faced today.” - Michael Leung, Founder and Management Consultant to Canadian Cybersecurity Inc.

 

This doesn’t mean the technology can’t easily be made secure when you set it up. You need to make sure you have a good level of encryption, as well as next-generation firewall functions; you might find some SD-WANs come with these set up as standard. The key thing is to ensure you’re installing security that matches what you’re using your network for.

2. Using it as a one-size-fits-all solution

One of the main reasons to use an SD-WAN in the first place is to improve application speed, especially with cloud-based, SaaS programs. However, when deploying, you need to be thinking about the specific apps the organization uses and optimize your network for them, as SD-WAN on its own is unlikely to be completely fit for purpose.

“If the SD-WAN design isn't optimized for application behavior, deploying it can prove to be a costly mistake. The service dependencies among various microservice segments need to be evaluated and understood so adequate bandwidth and latency policies can be set on the SD-WAN to support the application deployment in a multi-cloud environment.” - Vikram Saksena, CTO of cable markets for Netscout Systems

 

This same logic applies to security as well. You need to make sure you’re integrating SD-WAN into your existing architecture, as the network on its own won’t automatically fit with your security needs.

3. Starting off with the wrong impression

There’s a lot of variation in the SD-WAN space, which means there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ solution. This in turn means many deployment issues can arise from businesses not being clear on why they’re implementing this type of network in the first place, so it’s important to start off on the right track.

One key tip is to avoid some of the more sensational aspects of SD-WAN marketing, especially surrounding simplicity. Remember, you’re replacing an entire network; it’s not going to be easy, even though it’ll likely be worth it in the end. If you start out with the impression that deployment will be simple, you’ll end up being disappointed.

You also need to answer some fundamental questions about how your SD-WAN is deployed. For example, will you be using an internet-based deployment or a global private network? The latter can provide you with as much as 4.1-times faster application response time, but will likely be a greater expense. This is something you should be prepared for long before deployment starts.

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