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The pace of implementation for software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) is increasing, as companies need a smarter network infrastructure to handle cloud computing and expanding branch locations. Evaluating SD-WAN solutions to determine the best fit can be a challenging process, but if enterprises establish a checklist for a few key differentiators between solutions, the choice becomes easier.

SD-WAN generally offers some key features including the ability to segment network traffic based on user, application type or location, a subscription-based pay model, and zero-touch provisioning, just to name a few. These features may vary between SD-WAN solutions, and it’s a good idea to keep these differences in mind when evaluating options:

Determine the performance level of applications when using consumer broadband. One of the big draws of SD-WAN is its ability to tap into public Internet and replace at least some costly multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) usage. This sounds great until the enterprise realizes costs are improving, but performance is not up to the usual standard on certain applications. Be sure to test the SD-WAN’s ability to automatically correct errors from dropped packets or jitter.

Make sure the SD-WAN solution can automatically recognize cloud apps and steer them directly to the Internet. SD-WAN is valuable, at least in part, for its ability to segment out different types of traffic. It’s important when evaluating SD-WAN solutions to verify that the network will not backhaul cloud application traffic back over MPLS lines before directing it out to the Internet. Instead, the application should be able to directly connect to the Internet.

Assess the ability to bring a new branch online within a few hours. Zero-touch provisioning is one of the hallmarks of SD-WAN, but evaluate the solutions being considered for this important feature. It not only saves time in bringing a new branch online, but also saves travel costs for IT because everything from configuring to troubleshooting can be done from headquarters.

Find out what existing equipment can be integrated with SD-WAN solutions. If an enterprise has existing firewalls and routers, and particularly if these items are included in a current provider contract, it may be necessary to include them in the SD-WAN infrastructure. This allows the enterprise to avoid a rip-and-replace approach and it also can enable the enterprise to gradually implement SD-WAN at each location or division.

Evaluate how an SD-WAN solution will integrate with existing security equipment or policies. This concept somewhat overlaps with the last one, but an enterprise may have a well-developed security strategy that can accommodate SD-WAN. It may be possible to enhance the effectiveness of existing firewalls or other tools already in place with SD-WAN.

Choosing between SD-WAN solutions offers enterprises the opportunity to determine the option that simplifies network administration, reduces costs and provides the flexibility and agility needed to remain competitive in the market. To talk more about choosing the right SD-WAN solution, contact us at Access One.