Overcoming the Challenges of Transitioning to SD-WAN

Industry experts promise that SD-WAN will transform how enterprises do business, manage their networks, and secure their data — but it isn’t without its challenges.

Cloud computing, mobile platforms, and data analytics have introduced new, powerful tools to enterprises across key industries — but that doesn’t mean they’ve made networks easier to manage. As businesses have invested in cutting-edge software to streamline important operations, many are struggling to update and organize older networks that weren’t designed with the cloud in mind.

SD-WAN aims to change that. Software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) make it easier for IT professionals to manage enterprise networks by consolidating management functions into a single location and eliminating the need for manual command input. This new way of organizing networks are of particular benefit to businesses with multiple locations, companies that rely heavily on the cloud, and organizations that hope to scale their IT infrastructure quickly and cost-effectively.

Already, SD-WAN has made waves in the networking space. IDC recently projected that the infrastructure market for SD-WAN will reach $4.5 billion by 2022. However, the growing interest in SD-WAN hasn’t turned into a headlong rush just yet. For many businesses, traditional MPLS still has its advantages, from reliable data packet delivery to prioritized network traffic.

If you’re considering SD-WAN, it’s important to have a transition plan in place. While this new model does have its benefits, there are features that you and your team will need to keep in mind as you prepare to migrate over.

1. Managing Your Existing MPLS

For enterprises that already have an existing MPLS, figuring out what to do with that while you transition to SD-WAN can be challenging. Some businesses may even want to invest in SD-WAN while retaining their MPLS for certain functions. Indeed, research from Nemertes shows that almost 80 percent of companies that adopt SD-WAN retain their previous MPLS deployment in some capacity.

If your team isn’t interested in maintaining your MPLS, however, you will need to take extra steps during your migration to SD-WAN. For example, you should review your service agreements with your local carrier to understand when you can break away from MPLS. If you’re terminating your agreement early, you may face additional charges. Similarly, you may have minimum commitments that you still need to meet.

2. Preparing for SD-WAN

Getting your team up and running on new technology can be difficult. You’ll want to ensure that you’re improving network functionality, but you won’t want to cause widespread delays throughout workflows while doing it.

Accordingly, moving over to SD-WAN calls for expert planning. For starters — and even if you’re not planning on retaining your MPLS deployment once you have SD-WAN all set up — you may choose to work with your local carrier to secure month-to-month MPLS contracts. While this can be pricey, it can also ensure that you and your team are still able to meet your core business responsibilities while transitioning to SD-WAN.

Similarly, make sure you’ve begun working with your SD-WAN internet service provider as soon as possible. By ordering internet lines well in advance of your desired transition date, you’ll be better prepared for SD-WAN service — and less likely to impede operations because of any unforeseen technical issues.

3. Deciding Between DIY and Managed Service Providers During Your SD-WAN Transition

For enterprises planning their migration to SD-WAN, determining how to manage and support a new network architecture after a transition is a must. While it may be attractive for some businesses to purchase SD-WAN equipment and coordinate with internal IT staff to manually set up their next IT environment on their own — and troubleshoot any issues that arise during the process itself — other enterprises will want to partner with a managed services provider (MSP).

Ultimately, however, this is a decision your team will only need to make if you decide that SD-WAN is right for you. To make this determination, work internally to really understand your networking needs. Will locations throughout your business see an uptick in demand that calls for SD-WAN’s strengths? Are the costs of using your existing network architecture prohibitive for your business in the long term? Can SD-WAN add improved functionalities to your business that you currently lack?

Whatever you decide, investing in strategic partnerships with industry experts can help. By working with a managed IT services provider that understands your business’s needs, you and your team can make the most of your existing MPLS — and prepare for everything that SD-WAN has to offer.

At Turn-key Technologies, we have nearly three decades of experience designing, deploying, and managing MPLS networks — and helping enterprises of all sizes transition to next-gen networking solutions. Our team brings the expertise required to ensure your network makes a smooth transition, making us the perfect partner for any company preparing to make the switch to SD-WAN.

By Craig Badrick

December 12, 2018

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