SD-WANS Can Ease Network Manager Pain

Zeus Kerravala
Principal Analyst, ZK Research
Silver Peak

This blog post illustrates how SD-WANs can make Network Operators' lives a whole lot easier.

In the 2015 version of the Network Purchase Intention Study run jointly by ZK Research and Tech Target, one of the questions we asked about the WAN was “What WAN Issues Does Your Organization Need to Address?” The top three answers were issues that most organizations face when it comes to running a WAN. The top three responses, in order, were:

  1. Supporting business continuity / disaster recovery requirements
  2. Application performance / optimization
  3. Supporting new branch office locations

Other top responses were security concerns and use of cloud services. Clearly, there are a number of issues today — some new, and some traditional ones that continue to cause network managers pain.

Solving this pain can be done a couple of different ways. In the movie Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Spock’s half brother, Sybok, would use a variation of the Vulcan mind meld to see inside your head and then invite you to “Ease your pain,” as he’s able to bring out all of the things causing you pain. While that might seem a good approach, Sybok did take over the Enterprise, only to be thwarted later by an even more evil character, so it’s not an ideal solution. A better choice would be to shift to a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). The SD-WAN can’t look inside a network manager’s head to understand the source of the pain, but it doesn’t need to since the survey already did that. However, it can solve the pain points I listed above, plus others.

Business continuity / Disaster recovery (BCDR)

This is an area that I wrote about in a previous post, where I suggested using BCDR as a way of justifying the budget required to migrate to an SD-WAN. There’s no business leader that shouldn’t be concerned about network resiliency since for most organizations, the network is the business meaning network downtime equals lost revenue.

Application performance / Optimisation

Solving the application performance problem has been a pain point for network managers since the birth of the WAN. Sometimes it’s not even the network’s fault, but the network still gets blamed. I recall a situation when I was running a network and one of the branch managers would call me daily, furious that the performance of the WAN was so poor that the primary application of the business wouldn’t function properly. Turns out the branch administrator used to like to stream country music over the network — effectively killing all other applications. An SD-WAN can’t stop people from doing bandwidth-consuming things, but it gives the network manager the visibility required to understand what’s going on and then provide the knobs and levers required to continually tune it.

Supporting new branch office locations

As a former network manager, I know opening new branches can be as painful as a punch in the face from a Klingon. Crossing your fingers and hoping that the local telco has the facilities and drops off the circuit on time can be the most painful step in the process. With an SD-WAN, it’s no problem, as any network connection can be used. I recently talked to an organization in Georgia that uses 3G/4G connections to initially bring new locations up if there is no local connectivity available. The network manager told me that he can walk into a location with a 4G enabled router and have the branch up and running in 15 minutes. This is like parlaying the Klingon punch with a Captain Kirk two handed karate chop!

So, if you’re feeling the pain of running a WAN, don’t turn to renegade Vulcans. Instead, make the leap to an SD-WAN and start easing that pain today.

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