Cut through the marketing hype with these questions for potential suppliers.
Software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) are quickly gaining popularity, in no small part because vendors are applying them to a bunch of diverse missions -- so diverse, in fact, that users often complain they don't understand the offerings at all. To help cut through the market muck and evaluate your SD-WAN options, here are six questions you can ask your prospective suppliers.
The first question is obvious but often missed: What is the relationship between the SD-WAN and carrier WAN services? SD-WANs could be built over one Internet connection or several, could use MPLS VPNs as an option or not, and might expect other network features to be offered through your network connection. The SD-WAN market is in a state of transition, with some products designed for direct deployment by users and others for cooperative use within a carrier network. If you aren't careful with the network-to-SD-WAN relationship, you could end up with something that just won't work at all.
The second question is a bit more complicated: What is the information connection among the SD-WAN devices themselves? Generally, SD-WAN devices will build a private IP network on top of a set of "tunnels" or virtual wires that pass through one or more WAN services to connect all the SD-WAN devices. The connection mechanism can vary considerably -- for example, offering more or less additional overhead. If you want to manage the SD-WAN pipes using your current device or service management tools, you may want to be sure you're able to get statistics from some source on those connections.
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