Just about any Google search for the phrase “SD-WAN” will turn up an overabundance of articles explaining why replacing traditional MPLS with SD-WAN solutions can save you time and money. Heck, we even published a podcast about it. There is certainly no shortage of elevator pitches pointing you toward SD-WAN (also known as a software-defined wide area network); however, like all things in life, there is far more to the process than “just doing it.” Keep reading and we’ll lay out four key considerations to account for before any SD-WAN migration.
1 – Take Inventory
Your first step should be taking an accurate inventory of all of the locations, connections, and applications using your network. Categorize these locations by requirements. Do they rely on extremely high availability? What requirements are there for factors such a packet loss and jitter? Consider also the costs that each piece of the puzzle will require. All of these factors figure into what your business’s path to SD-WAN looks like.
Forming a highly detailed network diagram should be a priority. Knowing your WAN–including physical locations of devices and the layout of your LAN (local area network)–is crucial. Individual locations may require unique services, bandwidth, or traffic considerations. You will likely be sharing this network diagram with any third-party vendors you work with, ISPs, and your IT team so that all parties participating in the migration have a comprehensive understand of your needs. Firewalls.com always recommends that you leave plenty of wiggle room in your systems to accommodate for growth. With so many applications increasingly re-homing in the cloud, you should absolutely plan for the future of your SD-WAN solution to be able to accommodate them in the coming years.
2 – Determine What the Roll-Out Will Look Like
The second consideration is how quickly you expect your SD-WAN roll-out will be. Businesses have the option to switch everything from MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) as a routing technique to SD-WAN at once, or complete the process in a number of smaller, more modest phases.
SD-WAN is a flexible solution that can work in tandem with MPLS deployments already in place, allowing businesses to operate both simultaneously. Many organizations, especially small businesses, may not be ready or be able to migrate their entire WAN infrastructure in one process, and that’s okay. Hybrid WAN management, where certain connections are handled by MPLS and the rest by SD-WAN are not only possible, but fairly common.
Even if an organization is unable to fully transfer connections to SD-WAN, hybrid WAN management allows for reduced costs associated with bandwidth over time. Not only is this extremely flexible, but the money saved through SD-WAN begets resources needed for the later continuation of digital transformation. Or, put plainly, sometimes you have to save money to save more money later. Hybrid WAN environments make that possible.
3 – Acquire Dedicated Internet Access Lines Early
After taking inventory of the network and diagramming WAN infrastructure, you’ll have a solid idea of exactly what connections and bandwidth requirements to consider. Organizations need to start very early on with the process of orchestrating Internet service provider (ISP) installations, especially if connecting outposts or branch offices in remote locations. Getting Internet circuits installed can take several weeks or months. If the entire SD-WAN migration grinds to a halt while waiting on an ISP to haul fiber to branch locations, businesses can find themselves relying on more expensive MPLS solutions for longer than expected. Those costs add up and can act as a costly spoiler unaccounted for in initial budgeting.
4 – Consider Effects on End Users
Change, even positive change, causes friction. Friction in a business environment can have ripple effects on budget, productivity, and reputation, so it is imperative that businesses are fully prepared for cause-and-effect wrinkles in their daily routines. To that end, there are a number of questions you should ask about how an SD-WAN migration can impact users and internal traffic.
How much downtime should be expected for individual applications during the migration? If these are business critical applications, how can this impact be mitigated to minimally interfere with company workflow?
What changes will end users see in their daily network usage after successfully migrating to SD-WAN? Consider the training your staff may need to understand how this new infrastructure affects them. Again, change creates friction that may rub end users the wrong way, particularly if they’re used to doing things a certain way for a long time.
Speaking of end users, SD-WAN often extends greater access to mobile users on your network by eliminating the backhauling issues that mobile devices face with MPLS. Mobile backhaul describes the unseen process of how data-hungry mobile devices interact with wireless networks and data centers. However, SD-WAN excels at backhauling optimization, allowing for freer access to the network for mobile users. While this may be a boon for mobile workers, organizations should take additional security steps to account for increased mobile traffic on the network. Fortinet’s Secure SD-WAN integrates seamlessly with the rest of the Fortinet Security Fabric, extending powerful mobile security to minimize this impact when using products such as FortiGuard Mobile Service.
Another change that comes with SD-WAN migration is the beneficial impact it has on the IT department. SD-WAN can improve visibility and reduce the number of touch points and management tasks that IT needs to keep up with on a day-to-day basis. Organizations should consider how this lessened burden on the IT schedule can be taken advantage of to further improve network security and performance. What are network administrators to do with all of this extra time and increased control?
SD-WAN Management Made Easy
Hopefully this article has instilled some confidence if you’re on the fence about an SD-WAN migration. But Firewalls.com can still make managing your SD-WAN even easier. With a Security Operations Center filled to the brim with highly certified network administrators and architects, our Professional Services team can actively manage and configure SD-WAN on your behalf as an affordable, commitment-free monthly subscription. Give us a call at the number below to learn how Firewalls.com Professional Services can turn SD-WAN into an E-Z win.