Adaptation is the operative term for IT leaders navigating today’s new reality. With a rapid shift in enterprise connectivity and network priorities required to meet changing business needs and support a homebound workforce, many are turning to software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) for future success.
Cost-savings have been a major motivator for SD-WAN’s rise, but as the service becomes the savior for cloud and digital transformation price concerns are a top challenge for SD-WAN adoption.
To empower your next SD-WAN steps, SpyGlass technology expense management experts provide the facts you need.
Fact 1: SD-WAN is a Business Essential
A recent IDG survey for Masergy reports over half of the respondents are piloting, setting up or upgrading SD-WAN installations. By comparison, only 35% reported investing in SD-WAN in 2017. The reason? SD-WAN’s edge on prioritizing business traffic.
As SD-WAN helps organizations efficiently route traffic among offices, data centers and other crucial network locations, it also allows remote employees to securely access business-critical applications on the network. Even before COVID-19, the value of SD-WAN for remote workers or the small office home office market segment existed. As a result of the pandemic, the power of cloud and connectivity to ensure business continuity is vital.
Case in point: Cloud spending rose 37% to $29 billion during the first quarter of 2020, and the trend is estimated to rise 19% for the full year — even as IT spend as a whole is forecasted to fall 8% from the pandemic, according to Gartner.
The increased investment forecast is due to the reality of cloud-based technology, services and intelligence providing compelling growth opportunities. But every opportunity isn’t without its glitches. As residential broadband speeds increased considerably in the past decade, consumption of video services has also increased. According to the Federal Communications Commission, as of year-end 2017, approximately 93.4% of the American population are covered by both 25 Mbps / 3 Mbps fixed terrestrial service and mobile LTE with a minimum advertised speed of 5 Mpps / 1 Mbps.
While the evolution from copper-based DSL links offers speed, the competition for access by the remote worker versus household members accessing video services can trip up access to virtual desktop applications. Extending SD-WAN to remote work locations allows network administrators to prioritize business critical applications over other applications. For example, the user trying to access Office 365 applications or a Zoom conference call will always get priority over someone trying to stream video on Netflix.
Fact 2: A Hybrid-Architecture World is Here
For the last couple of decades, businesses have relied on large wide-area networking (WAN) services using multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) as the backbone to securely route and prioritize traffic over networks. While experts may argue against the investment of switching from MPLS to SD-WAN due to similarities in WAN transmission technologies, they can actually work well together making it worth the cost.
Many larger organizations choose to remain with MPLS technology as a reliable and proven service, but it does have its disadvantages. MPLS can become costly as most services require WAN optimization for best performance. In addition, MPLS secures point-to-point links between branch offices and data centers and is not used to connect to the cloud; as a result, costs of cloud access potentially increase. MPLS also requires programming at the hardware level, with each node being programmed individually — an often lengthy and expensive process.
On the flip side, SD-WAN enables intelligence to be brought into the software level and provides benefits to businesses of all sizes. By moving to open hardware models, SD-WAN can also be managed and deployed via the cloud.
According to an IBM survey analysis, SD-WAN solutions include the following general key capabilities:
• Central management and cloud-based controls
• End-to-end encryption
• Multi-path and multi-link support with dynamic path selection
• Path condition and WAN optimization
The main driver for SD-WAN adoption is cloud and digital transformation, but it’s important to understand SD-WAN doesn’t have to be an internet-based technology. With a hybrid-architecture mindset, vendors and providers support SD-WAN functionality across connectivity type, including MPLS and virtual private LAN service. It’s true SD-WAN benefits can reduce the need for MPLS, yet IT teams should still consider the privacy and end-to-end quality of service offered by private networking products.
Fact 3: Network Know-How Saves $$$
As enterprises plan network transformation with SD-WAN — either by adopting a do-it-yourself approach or via managed services — the goal is to reap WAN cost savings. But, how can you know if changes to your network will save money if you don’t have a clear sense of how much you’re currently spending?
As one of the primary budget-busting challenges, lack of visibility into network costs is a challenge for professionals managing the big picture of connectivity. From voice, internet and mobility expenses, the struggle to gain control of telecom costs is real. And this reality has intensified as the coronavirus era calls for constant adaptability due to shifts in the cloud, unexpected shadow IT and remote worker demands.
To gain perspective, a SpyGlass technology expense SnapShot Audit provides a thorough review to maximize the SD-WAN journey ahead — while avoiding the 30% or more of overspend that typically occurs on telecom expenses. By reviewing network costs, a SnapShot Audit gives insight for the next proactive network steps to move forward.
In addition to providing technology expense clarity, a SnapShot Audit educates on how SD-WAN can achieve cost savings in operating expenses and bandwidth spend. With most SD-WAN solutions following the cost structure of traditional networking vendors, important points to understand include high vendor switching costs and full-capability only services.
The good news is that SD-WAN is proving to save enterprises money. In addition, secure SD-WAN architectures provide critical functionality while freeing up IT staff to address other priorities.