Customers & Suppliers: SD-WAN Solutions and Considerations

Customers & Suppliers: SD-WAN Solutions and Considerations

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  January 18, 2017

The field of SD-WAN companies is a crowded one. What’s more, many of these entities speak of similar capabilities in describing their offerings. That can make it difficult for organizations looking to purchase SD-WAN solutions to select a supplier.

“Every SD-WAN vendor emphasizes ease of use compared to alternatives such as VPNs and dynamic routing protocols, dynamic path control to optimize traffic among two or more WAN connections, and application classification in order to monitor performance and meet SLAs using policy-based management which simplifies daily operations,” writes Mike Fratto of Current Analysis.

While we’re hearing a similar message from many of those in the SD-WAN arena, there are a few areas in which vendors can differentiate, according to the SD-WAN H1 2016 Market Update by Current Analysis, which provides assessments of many of the solutions providers in this space. That includes composable services, meaning services that can be moved as needed; deployment model variety, with the options being cloud services or physical or virtual on-premises appliances; flexible subscription-based licensing; and vendor integration ecosystems structures.

Aryaka, BigLeaf Networks, Cisco Systems, Citrix (News - Alert), CloudGenix, Cradlepoint (which recently acquired Pertino), Cybera, Ecessa, Elfiq, FatPipe Networks, Glue Networks, InfoVista, Mushroom Networks, Nuage Networks (a Nokia company), Riverbed, Silver Peak, SimpleWAN, Talari, TELoIP, VeloCloud, Versa Networks, Viptela, and Virtela (News - Alert) (which is now owned by NTT Communications) are among the companies offering SD-WAN solutions today. Several services providers also sell SD-WAN services. That list includes such carriers as AT&T (News - Alert), BT, Global Capacity, NTT, Singtel, Sprint, Verizon, and Vonage.

So let’s take a look at one organization that implemented SD-WAN and its choices and observations in that process.

The organization is Veterans United Home Loans, a national lender that financed more than $7.3 billion loans in 2015. It has 42 locations from Hawaii to Virginia Beach. The company, which already has business Ethernet in place at all of its locations, was trying to increase its network resilience to prevent blackouts and brownouts on its network, and to have failover without dropping calls or virtual desktop sessions.

Eric Goodwin, network architect at Veterans United Home Loans, says the organization is a Cisco (News - Alert) shop, so he was initially looking at Cisco’s iWAN solution. But, he adds, that would’ve required a forklift upgrade to all of its routers. That would’ve been expensive, he says, plus he was not getting a lot of positive feedback from others who had implemented that solution. “We heard a lot of heartache,” he adds.

(Here we’d like to note that Current Analysis says iWAN is attractive due to its publicly available APIs; support for application visibility and control, DMVPN, and performance routing; and reliance on the widely deployed ASR 1000 and ISR 4000 routers and CSR (News - Alert) 1000v virtual router. But the research and consulting firm says Cisco’s iWAN is complicated to configure and deploy from the CLI, requires an additional license, has limited ISR support, and doesn’t have any integrated service chained network functions from partners.)

So Veterans United Home Loans ultimately zeroed in on Silver Peak, whose solution just required the addition of remote office devices, which is the approach taken by many of the other vendors INTERNET TELEPHONY interviewed for this supplement. After successful proofs of concept and trials, Goodwin and his team concluded that Silver Peak’s SD-WAN solution was ready for prime time, and began its implementation, which it was in process when we spoke in mid November.

While Veterans United Home Loans is comfortable with its vendor selection, Goodwin describes the move to SD-WAN as a massive undertaking. Many SD-WAN suppliers market their solutions as zero-touch, he explains, and Silver Peak is that. But deploying SD-WAN requires a lot of homework for the customer in terms of identifying its traffic and deciding what policies to set for each application, he says.

“That’s different for everyone,” he notes.

Some organizations considering SD-WAN may be under the impression that SD-WAN will enable them to get rid of their dedicated connections and move to more affordable broadband services, Goodwin adds. But cable and DSL services do not always provide the proper service level agreements and consistent service quality that Veterans United needs to provide a good end user experience over the WAN, he says, although that may be possible three or four years down the road as more business applications move to the cloud. The good news for Veterans United Home Loans and many other businesses, however, is that the cost of the dedicated Ethernet connections they’re already using – and that can be used in conjunction with SD-WAN – are coming down.  

Veterans United Home Loans expects to realize a return on investment from SD-WAN within about 2 years, according to Goodwin. That ROI is possible due to the lack of downtime SD-WAN is expected to enable, meaning no lost business and less troubleshooting.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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