In the clouds: SD-WAN services the way you want them Posted on February 21, 2019 by Tim Burke Swapping a traditional wide-area network (WAN) for a new kind of branch and remote-location network connectivity — software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) — reduces operational costs and improves resource usage as well as security. In my last post, I described why this is true and enumerated several SD-WAN approaches, including appliances, software licensing, SD-WAN as a service, and SD-WAN managed services. But which sort of SD-WAN capability is right for you? Approaches break down into two types: do it yourself or turn to some sort of SD-WAN service. DIY SD-WAN To do SD-WAN yourself, you’ll need deep in-house knowledge of complex SD-WAN technologies and deployment techniques as well as SD-WAN management skills and an equally deep understanding of your own (probably arcane) IT infrastructure. If you have these resources, you’re in a position to take advantage of SD-WAN appliances and SD-WAN software. SD-WAN service capabilities to look out for But if, like many mid-size and smaller enterprises, your organization does not have the necessary in-house expertise to deploy and operate SD-WAN, you’ll need to enlist some sort of cloud-based SD-WAN service. When you do, keep in mind MEF’s seven fundamental SD-WAN managed services capabilities: 1. Secure, IP-based virtual overlay network; 2. Transport-independence of underlay network; 3. Service assurance of each SD-WAN tunnel; 4. Application-driven packet forwarding; 5. High availability through multiple WAN links; 6. Policy-based packet forwarding; and 7. Service automation via centralized management, control, and orchestration. SD-WAN service options SD-WAN services come in two varieties — SD-WAN as a service and SD-WAN managed services. Here’s how they differ: SD-WAN as a service SD-WAN managed service How the service is hosted: Service provider typically offers the SD-WAN service on its own private cloud network How the service is hosted: Service provider typically partners with an SD-WAN vendor to add SD-WAN services to its cloud portfolio SD-WAN monitoring and management: Your responsibility, usually via the service provider’s cloud-based management portal SD-WAN monitoring and management: Responsibility of your SD-WAN managed service provider WAN communications services: Contracted (with a communications service provider) by you WAN communications services: Contracted (with a communications service provider) by your SD-WAN managed service provider Pricing: Generally based on the features and functionality you select Typically available as a monthly subscription Pricing: Generally based on customer sites, locations, link speeds, and SLA requirements Typically available via one-year or multi-year service contracts Benefits: Easy upgradability Latest functionality Benefits: Performance levels assured via customized SLA Monitoring, management, and security handled by experts A conversation with your trusted technology advisor will help you decide which approach — SD-WAN as a service, an SD-WAN managed service, or possibly some customized hybrid of the two — will work best for your business.