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The Downside of SD-WAN and How to Avoid It

modern networks
(Source: Pixabay)

As the demand for internet connectivity continues to rise, paired with the increasing adoption of cloud applications, traditional wide area network (WAN) architectures fail to deliver the expected application experience, falling short on optimizing cloud connectivity, improving security, or providing complete visibility of the network to manage devices and resolve network issues. At the same time, innovation in the networking domain is responding to a market that is shifting from a focus on "speeds and feeds" to one focused on innovative services and a programmable network. 

The increase in remote work environments due to the pandemic is driving some of that change and leading many IT leaders to recognize the importance of remote access, speed and security, and to re-evaluate their network infrastructure investments. As a result, enterprises are increasingly adopting SD-WAN as part of their larger connectivity strategy to reduce costs, increase network performance and security, as well as help network teams manage large remote sites more efficiently.

But now for the bad news…

While the benefits of SD-WAN for enterprise networks are well-documented, the approach also presents some challenges.

First, a lack of interoperability across distributed multi-domain networks leads to siloed operations, complex platform interactions, and, ultimately, higher operational costs. In turn, this places an increased burden on already stretched network operations teams to not only maintain business-as-usual services but also to roll out new technologies, such as SD-WAN branches. Having to manage multiple vertical solutions across multiple domains also comes with a steep learning curve for NetOps teams.

Also, while SD-WAN lends itself to more software-orientated development and deployment strategies, without an automation solution that can abstract the complexities of these modern technologies, it’s a tall order for NetOps teams within organizations to even pursue automation without re-tooling and re-development.

Another significant challenge of SD-WAN that most enterprises overlook is the amount of time it takes to deploy and migrate remote sites. Teams may risk missing key deployment deadlines because the end-to-end process of deploying SD-WAN to a single site takes longer than anticipated. Challenges can also arise after deployment, such as when changes need to be made. At that time, it often becomes apparent that many existing SD-WAN tools are very "ClickOps” heavy and fail to provide a way to ensure consistent configuration compliance for every device managed by the solution.

Overcoming the challenges

Organizations understand that integrating SD-WAN into their networks can pay significant dividends, but they may also hesitate due to the challenges involved. Automating SD-WAN can overcome those challenges, especially an automation solution that can abstract the complexities of SD-WAN and other modern network solutions, along with traditional network devices, and integrate with the enterprise’s entire IT ecosystem. Such a solution can provide end-to-end automation for deployment and day-to-day management of SD-WAN technology within the legacy network using a single toolset while providing agility and flexibility that allows for collaboration across IT and networking teams.

SD-WAN is evolving and enabling the acceleration for more innovative services. By extending SD-WAN into a multi-cloud reality with enhanced security and analytics and connecting innovation at the edge with application and cloud concepts, enterprise organizations can increase the speed to deploy new sites, minimize human errors, and remove the tedious backlog of change requests.

Morgan Stern is VP of Automation Strategy at Itential.

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