In Part 1 of this series, we explored the top pain points associated with managing Internet-based WANs today. This second installment will focus on today's most prevalent SD-WAN deployment challenges specifically and what you can do to better manage modern WANs overall.
Many organizations flock to SD-WAN to realize potential network performance, security and cost reduction benefits. But according to recent research from EMA, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Here are several of the top SD-WAN implantation challenges IT professionals experience today:
1. Implementation Complexity
More than 40% of organizations identify implementation complexity as a top hurdle to SD-WAN success. Most organizations introduce public Internet options into their SD-WAN, and these increase complexity for many of the reasons highlighted in Part 1 of this series, but also because they require additional security technologies that IT teams aren't as accustomed to managing.
Additionally, you need to integrate SD-WANs with existing network elements, which can account for additional complexity and the need for in-depth programming and scripting expertise. SD-WAN success demands a detailed set of expectations for what the solutions should achieve concerning performance, security and cost, as well as a clear accounting of all the existing elements in your network.
Assembling this information and establishing an exhaustive integration plan is the only way to manage the inherent complexity of a new SD-WAN deployment (and avoid cost overruns and frustration).
2. Integration with Existing Network Technology
SD-WANs are essentially just an overlay on top of your existing network, which many take to mean they're simple to deploy. But, nearly 40% of IT professionals cited integration with current network technology as a significant SD-WAN roadblock. As the name implies, "soft-defined" means this software must communicate with all your existing hardware and software network components — something far easier said than done.
Are you doing the integration or is the SD-WAN vendor?
What existing network elements will be the most challenging?
What skills are required?
SD-WAN is a relatively new technology, so if you have some older components in your network, compatibility with this new SD-WAN technology could be an issue or drive up the solution's cost.
For example, say you have your entire SD-WAN project scoped out, including integration costs, and you're ready to go. Then you realize you have some fairly old switches in your stack that you didn't realize don't integrate properly with your chosen SD-WAN solution. Without the proper visibility, tools and planning, it's easy to miss certain points of integration and run into time-consuming obstacles and budget overages.
3. Network Team Skills Gaps
Roughly 22% of organizations believe skills deficits within their network team are impeding progress on SD-WAN deployment projects. These issues can quickly become apparent when organizations decide to forgo the help of an SD-WAN vendor and perform the integration for a new rollout internally in the interest of saving money.
As teams begin digging into these projects, they often realize SD-WAN integrations are not as "plug-and-play" as vendors typically advertise. SD-WAN deployments require skillsets that might be in short supply within most NetOps teams. Whether it's a lack of familiarity with security solutions and procedures, software development and scripting expertise, or experience troubleshooting issues at ISPs, you're sure to experience schedule delays and cost increases as the team learns on the job or brings in a third party to help.
The Power of End-to-End Network Visibility
When asked to identify the top root causes of WAN issues today, 30% of organizations listed application errors and performance, while 30% cited ISP or MPLS providers, and 28% listed end-user error or client device failure. Establishing comprehensive network visibility is the key to addressing these issues, and managing and optimizing your modern WAN.
Distributed organizations such as retailer chains and healthcare branches need end-to-end network visibility to identify application performance issues such as intermittent asymmetric VoIP routing issues, poor traffic flows from branches to the data center, and WAN application traffic steering problems.
Flow-based network analysis can help perform real-time network topology mapping for devices, interfaces, applications, VPNs and users. It can also help establish critical baselines for SD-WAN deployments, such as site-to-site traffic types and paths, application behaviors and consumption patterns, and more.
These are just a few examples that illustrate why your team must establish end-to-end network visibility in order to address today's hybrid WAN challenges and their root causes. This means leveraging modern network monitoring solutions to collect and analyze disparate data sources, including network flow data, packet data, device metrics, active monitoring data, endpoint data, and cloud provider flow data. Hybrid WANs are here to stay, and the common issues associated with them will be too unless you're equipped to visualize and manage every domain and element of your network.
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