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What should I ask about managed SD-WAN services?

When contemplating managed SD-WAN services, organizations should consider criteria like network security, infrastructure compatibility and bandwidth requirements.

Software-defined WAN technologies have altered the managed WAN services landscape by offering distributed enterprises the benefits of internet economics and improved application performance. IT leaders considering managed SD-WAN services should evaluate a range of criteria, including coverage, compatibility, application performance, security and cost.

Service providers have introduced a plethora of managed SD-WAN services to complement, or even replace, their traditional MPLS and Ethernet WAN services. As with previous WAN offerings -- e.g., WAN optimization -- many customers can benefit from the simplicity of outsourcing SD-WAN deployment and management. SD-WAN technologies continue to improve their support for managed services, including multi-tenancy support, better security and improved management.

Key questions for IT managers

WAN connectivity requirements can vary widely, depending on geography, the number of branch locations, branch size, application type, application location -- whether in the data center or in a cloud environment -- or guest Wi-Fi requirements. IT leaders should carefully evaluate the current and expected WAN requirements in terms of bandwidth, application prioritization and security.

Here are some of the key questions IT leaders should ask when selecting a managed SD-WAN service:

  • How does the managed SD-WAN service guarantee application performance for my critical applications? How easy is it for me to alter the application prioritization profiles?
  • How does the offer connect to SaaS and cloud-based applications? Are all cloud applications prioritized, or just the leading ones?
  • Is the offer compatible with my current network infrastructure? 
  • What is the cost of the managed SD-WAN service compared to existing offerings? How will costs change as WAN traffic patterns or bandwidth requirements evolve?
  • Does the service provider offer comprehensive WAN connectivity options across my entire global WAN footprint?
  • What is reliability of the WAN service? What service-level agreements are being offered?
  • What networks will be utilized -- e.g., MPLS and internet? Does the service provider offer 4G Long Term Evolution as a primary or secondary link option?
  • What level and type of network security is provided with the managed SD-WAN service? How will breaches be detected and fixed?
  • What management dashboards are available for me to easily see the health of my SD-WAN service?
  • Does the service offer bandwidth on demand? Does it provide the ability to easily scale bandwidth up or down to meet variable bandwidth requirements?
  • What are the support capabilities for the service? How good are the customer-satisfaction scores?

Next Steps

SD-WAN and MPLS can survive together

Consider these SD-WAN advantages

Look for these SD-WAN trends in 2018

This was last published in November 2017

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What are your organization's biggest considerations when it comes to SD-WAN managed services?
Lee - Nice article.

For those who want to see a summary of managed SD-WAN offerings, please take a look at "Service Providers Are Deploying SD-WAN" here: