John Bidgood, CTO at Systal shares our experience of developing and maintaining a future proofed SD WAN network
In our last blog we posed two initial questions that need to be answered in order to maximise the benefits of software defined networks and provide support for long term objectives. The first is whether the traditional model for supporting the WAN with a traditional Internet Service Provider is the right one? The second question is whether it is better to maintain a hardware virtualisation platform outside of their normal realm of control at the customer premise equipment router?
Vendor agnostic partner
To answer these questions, we need to first ask how many managed service providers are truly aligned to your particular goals around the development of a full software defined environment. Many managed service providers will advise using a tradition ISP, however, many ISPs are aligned to “standard” WAN offerings with support models that are often inflexible to change. This means that they don’t take into account the hyper convergence skills between compute, storage and the need to future proof the network.
Some managed service providers and ISPs have their own bandwidth solutions, which they will be using as standard to protect their revenue streams. These are often not the most cost effective solutions for you, so it is important to find a partner who is technology and vendor agnostic, allowing them to assess your current and future requirements against the market and help you find the best solution for your needs.
Another point to consider is geographical coverage. Some ISPs are forced to limit what they can offer and where so that they can cap at the most cost effective prices. Not all ISPs have assets on the ground they can use; therefore, margin on margin becomes an issue as one ISP buys services from another to then sell on to you. You can save money by working with a partner who can help you procure these services directly.
When things go wrong, will they work pro-actively on anything other than areas within their commercial service control? Think for a moment about the dreaded use case of when the network is reported as slow! Whose responsibility is it to do the root cause analysis, and will they help if you are finding it hard to pinpoint where the network is slow? This is often compounded by support terms being offshore with no customer network familiarity unless it’s a standard ISP service. How many of us run our networks this way?
Software Defined Networks – a methodical approach
It’s with these challenges in mind that we would advise our clients to think about the procurement and design of your traditional WAN Services. Therefore, before extending or sourcing a new WAN contract, we would recommend a methodical approach that does the following:
- Confirms the end to end architecture that the SD-WAN needs to support.
- Confirms what locations need to have 100% network reliability and what can be ‘best efforts.’
- Includes an investment in a CPE platform that supports hyperconvergence of remote site functions, not just the network as part of that architecture.
- Decouples the CPE from traditional WAN provisioning models i.e buy unbundled WAN services.
- Looks across potential multiple ISPs for bandwidth, performance and cloud interconnectivity requirements.
Once you have identified your ideal next steps for your WAN project, the next hurdle to tackle is how to design, deploy and manage the new unbundled services. Monies saved could be invested on internal staff to run the new virtualised services. Unfortunately, this is not always viable.
This means that enterprises should be on the lookout for potential “integration” partners, such as Systal, who are technology and vendor agnostic, and able to work on your behalf to secure the best long term solutions for your business.
An analysis of trends in the industry has shown that you don’t have to implement everything on day one to meet your digital workplace and multi-cloud objectives for now and in the future. But by following the right principles early on with the right partnerships, and avoiding vendor lock-in you can, over many years scale a very cost-effective service, rather than undergoing a complete rejuvenation every time it has, inevitably, to change and develop.