The rapid pace of technological advancement is bringing with it a host of new opportunities to its users. Networks, for example, are being fundamentally altered as software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) is changing the very nature of the WAN. As companies increasingly use software-defined networking (SDN), they’re discovering that it doesn’t come without some of its own challenges. Knowing what to address about SDN and how to frame SD-WAN with respect to current WAN operations will open up a lot of new opportunity for partners to better impact their own customers.
What Are the Challenges of SDN?
While SDN has proven an excellent addition to many businesses’ operations, it doesn’t come without issues of its own.
A hindrance in troubleshooting. While SDN allows for better, more rapid application deployment and network services use, it can also get in the way when troubleshooting on the network needs to be done. SDN allows the network to be directly programmed, and the infrastructure supporting it to be abstracted. This allows for much better performance, but can increases complexity as well thanks to the intersection of abstraction and policy orchestration.
Old tools work less. For those used to approaching troubleshooting based on command-line interfacing (CLI) or network diagramming, SDN can be troublesome. SDN improves network performance and that makes many of these older tools much less effective. Preventing this from being an issue is really only accomplished by greater network visibility, so be sure to address that point when dealing with anyone whose go-to tools are still CLI and network diagramming.
Focus on automation. Putting a new focus on task automation can be especially helpful with SDN. Where it’s applicable, automation takes some processes and allows these to largely run themselves. This keeps engineers from getting overwhelmed by the increasing complexity of operations, as well as letting them focus on the more valuable systems and those that simply can’t be automated.
How Is SD-WAN Changing the WAN?
SD-WAN approaches normalcy. The sheer gains in numbers seen by SD-WAN operations makes it abundantly clear that this system is starting to be the new standard in networking. That by itself is going to open up new issues for companies to address—and new opportunities for outside vendors to provide ways to address those issues.
SD-WAN value is still murky. The move to normalcy, however, will take at least another decade to be fully realized, by some reports. Many IT buyers are having a shockingly similar objection: the benefit of an SD-WAN move is still somewhat unclear. While there are certainly points of value to address this objection—improved flexibility and overall network strength, which contributes to bottom line value through less downtime and the like—buyers are still having a hard time seeing how this value is greater than the network already in place, which doesn’t go down all that often to begin with.
Lots of variables. Some of SD-WAN’s greatest strengths actually are dependent on location. For instance, cost-cutting issues are somewhat shaky in places like the UK—and large swaths of Europe—where internet access costs are actually higher than multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). Anywhere MPLS costs are lower than internet access costs, especially when firewall costs and other security issues are added on, leaves SD-WAN looking second-rate.
The future is unsteady. Another major strength of SD-WAN is its ability to improve the pace of future deployments. That’s true, but there’s a certain inherent limit in speed caused by network infrastructure. Since a lot of networks are coaxial and copper by nature, there’s only so much speed that can be pumped through such a system. SD-WAN can speed this up, but once that ceiling is hit, it’s hit. That’s a development that may not be a problem for much longer—between increasing fiber deployment and the rise of 5G for those without fiber—but right now, it’s likely to prove a sticking point.
How to Get Help Adapting to the Changes Posed by SDN and SD-WAN
SDN means challenge, and SD-WAN means change. When the two begin to get overwhelming, the best thing to do is take a step back and realize the value of a master agent’s support. That’s when you should reach out to us at Innovative Business Solutions. We support over 500 partners in the United States, and are ready to help with tools, connections and knowledge to help you address the changes and challenges posed by SDN and SD-WAN. All you have to do is drop us a line to get started.