COST, COST, COST has been the battle cry of many SD-WAN providers as they attempt to break down the door that separates them from potential customers. Like a battering ram, trying to break down the door of potential customers because everyone wants to save money, right??? With figures like 25%-30% cost saving on WAN costs it sure is tempting for the customer, but is this really the main benefit of SD-WAN and is it achievable?
How are cost savings achieved through SD-WAN?
There are a couple of areas where, by utilising SD-WAN, we can realise cost savings. The hardware used is generally cheaper than in a traditional WAN design, but as the hardware only takes up a small percentage of the total cost this is only a small figure – not the 25/30% promised by some.
The main area where cost is saved is on the circuits used. The idea is that you replace expensive fibre with lower cost (but lower quality) copper circuits, such as dual FTTC, and rely on the path choice function of the SD-WAN overlay, which can choose the best performing path and therefore compensate for any reduced performance. In theory, this sounds great, but by doing this you are choosing circuits with a reduced service level, moving from say a 5×9’s service level to a 4×9’s. Significant savings can be made here and some will be happy with this, many won’t.
So, like with everything in life, you get what you pay for and if you’re wanting cheap there is usually a trade-off somewhere. For many organisations, this trade-off is just not acceptable. Where the network is critical, achieving cost savings through utilising cheaper circuit types, even though completely possible, may not be realistic across all a customer’s sites.
If not cost, what are the benefits organisations are achieving?
You may think this paints a gloomy picture, or we don’t think SD-WAN lives up to the hype, but you’d be wrong. There are some impressive benefits to be achieved through the impact SD-WAN has on applications. When most IT solutions are adopted it’s typically all about the applications and the functionality they provide the business and its end users, application benefits are really something to consider.
Responsiveness – the technical benefit
At times, all networks experience latency, jitter and packet loss. There are some applications that won’t feel the affect, whereas the impact on others, such as voice, is much greater. It can result in degradation of service and a poor end user experience. SDWAN’s ability to define policies around circuit performance help solve these issues, improving the applications responsiveness, therefore the applications performance in turn improving the end users experience.
If you have a branch site with two WAN links, SD-WAN would let you define a policy for latency, jitter and loss. If a circuit exceeded that policy, then voice (but possibly nothing else depending on your policy) would be diverted down the alternative, better performing link. You might not get a high 5 from the financial director but your user satisfaction and workforce productivity will notice a significant difference!
Agility – the business benefit
We are in a period of rapid change; we have seen trends such as IoT, mobility and cloud become adopted technology and are now seeing the emergence of AI and robotics. All of these changes affect the type of applications traversing the network. If you couple this with the new culture of DevOps and the need for speed within the organisation, it then becomes clear that the network needs to be more agile.
SD-WAN definitely ticks this box. The ability to define policies to effectively drop an application onto the network, rather than having to consider individual router configurations and QoS profiles across a multitude of devices can dramatically speed up the support for a new application on the network. This saves time helping organisations realise the benefits of their new application sooner, providing competitive advantage and helping the organisation deliver on their objectives much quicker.
SD-WAN – is it for you?
There is a place for SD-WAN in many network designs as it can deliver a range of benefits. By discussing this with an experienced service provider that understands both the underlay network and the functionality an SD-WAN overly can deliver, you can understand the specific benefits it can provide your organisation.
At ANS our WAN solutions range from traditional resilient connectivity and hybrid WAN solutions through to SD-WAN overlays. Contact us to discuss whether SD-WAN is right for you and what benefits you’ll expect to see on your network, alternatively, check out our whitepaper to find out more about SD-WAN.