Seven steps to SD-WAN success

The shift to hybrid and remote working has pushed the need for agile cloud-ready WAN to the top of the wish list.

Seven steps to SD-WAN success

The shift to hybrid and remote working has pushed the need for agile cloud-ready WAN to the top of the wish list.

Lindsay NewellMarketing, Nuage Networks from Nokia

SD-WAN has been a hot topic for several years now, but what are the secrets to making it work? In this blog, we explore seven key steps to a successful SD-WAN deployment.

1. Your business should be engaged in IT transformation to the cloud…

Evolution from on-premises IT to more agile cloud-delivered models needs to be in your business plan. Your traditional WAN, with predominantly internal connectivity to centralised applications and data, will struggle to deliver high-performing connections to IT resources in the cloud. You’ll need to change the model from a central data centre break-out to the internet (shared by many users) to more individual local-breakout models from branches.

2. … and once it is, think revolution, not evolution

SD-WAN provides the opportunity to open up to the cloud. Previous VPN technologies have delivered incremental speed changes but on consistent topology – predominantly hub and spoke. Well, that can now change. SD-WAN technology securely adapts new network paths direct to cloud IT. WAN topologies that offer full mesh and direct branch-to-cloud will fundamentally change the speed and efficiency of how your users can get to cloud resources. 

3. Be prepared to keep hold of some MPLS

No one regrets buying quality, and in network transport, the highest quality services are based on Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS). SD-WAN is the perfect technology to build a new WAN foundation using MPLS, internet, and mobile broadband services in a complementary way. Many organisations are using SD-WAN to combine different access technologies on a site-by-site basis to increase performance and reduce costs – so it doesn’t mean the end for MPLS. For many enterprises, MPLS is still used to provide guaranteed performance for business-critical applications, while general businesses (email, cloud-based applications, etc.) use higher bandwidth/lower cost internet services.

4. The more SD-WAN, the bigger the benefits

You’re likely to reap bigger benefits as you move more of your network to SD-WAN. For instance, the more sites you have on board, the greater the benefits of using Application Aware Routing (AAR), traffic tuning, and shaping. SD-WAN is fundamentally different from the traditional WAN. It’s fully Layer-7 focussed, so network intelligence and visibility into the applications used at each location is available via a centralised services portal. With SD-WAN you’ll see a massive improvement in the way your business consumes network resources.

5. Want zero-touch provisioning? Be prepared

Zero-touch provisioning (ZTP) is a huge benefit of SD-WAN. It allows you to remotely provision a branch anywhere in the world, with little to no on-site networking expertise. For many enterprises, this means a truly remote install experience. The downside is that the SD-WAN service relies heavily on the underlying transport services to the location. As such, it’s imperative to ensure that the access circuits support the users and are fit for purpose. This means selecting the right type of access technology and ensuring it’s fully functional before asking your branch personnel to install the SD-WAN gateway.

6. Take care with mass network changes

The utopian SD-WAN scenario is the ability to make sweeping changes to the running configurations of your WAN with just a few clicks. And that’s entirely possible, but it must be done carefully, as you may be changing your entire WAN estate in one fell swoop. To minimise any risk of disruption, you must use the insight from your service provider to pick the optimal maintenance window. And on that topic…

7. Work closely with your SD-WAN partners

Reaping the full benefits of an SD-WAN implementation calls for high quality connectivity. And that means constant management of the underlay transport services. Organisations should work closely with their internet service providers (ISPs) to look at peering, latency statistics, service-level agreements (SLAs), and continuous monitoring.

When choosing BT and our Agile Connect SD-WAN service powered by Nuage Networks from Nokia, you’re assured a low risk, expertly maintained SD-WAN deployment. We manage 10,000 SD-WAN sites, offer full network emulation in our labs to reduce transformation risk, and provide a 100-point checklist to ensure a successful deployment.

We also have a growing portfolio of customers who trust our decades-long partnership and complementary SD-WAN expertise to transform and digitise their business operations.