In digital transformation initiatives, enterprises use technology to radically change the ways they do business. Technology lets them infuse their operations with automation, replacing old processes and workflows with faster, easier, and cost effective ways to get the job done.
A prime example is the move to software-defined wide-area networking. Enterprises are getting on board with SD-WAN projects because they offer smarter, more flexible, and more economical ways to provision their remote offices with WAN connectivity.
"Digital transformation is the path to a more profitable future for many companies, and SD-WAN deployments can be a great first step on that journey"
SD-WAN introduces new software layers that automate WAN configuration based not on hard-coded data links, but on per application policies set by the enterprise. Those policies can be set to allow for rapid and automated configuration changes that enable more efficient use of primary and secondary WAN links resulting in better end user experience of the applications. In addition to application performance improvements, SD-WAN create costs savings by reducing organizations’ reliance on expensive MPLS links, opting for reliable low cost internet connectivity as an alternative. SDWAN configuration automation also lowers the cost of installation and administration of the WAN.
However, to gain these benefits and avoid costly missteps with SD-WAN, executives must be prepared for the unique network monitoring challenges that typically arise in these transitions.
Dual WAN Approaches, Twice the Challenges
Reliable WAN connectivity is critical, so most enterprises do not change all of their WAN operations at once. Instead, they make the change strategically, transitioning offices, groups, or regions to SD-WAN in phases.
As a result, many enterprises run two or more different WAN environments simultaneously. In many cases, their existing WAN solution is MPLS-based. Enterprises will continue to run their MPLS environments for certain offices or groups, while deploying one or more ‘flavors’ of SD-WAN in parts of their organizations. This creates unique network monitoring and management challenges that enterprises must address in order for their projects to be successful.
Leading vendors such Cisco and Viptela provide basic network management tools for their SD-WAN offerings. The problem is that these tools do not meet the full lifecycle needs of enterprises transitioning to and operating SD-WANs. To bridge this functionality gap, enterprises tend to invest in multiple tools and systems in order to manage different aspects of their SD-WAN transitions. That’s in addition to the legacy network management and monitoring systems they use to keep their MPLS-based WAN operating properly. This becomes even more complicated and expensive in multi-vendor SD-WAN implementations, in which even more monitoring tools are required.
To properly monitor and manage WAN performance throughout the full lifecycle as they straddle two or more environments, enterprise IT and network operations teams need the following key capabilities.
• A single dashboard for monitoring the performance of both the existing WAN and new
• Automated and highly efficient ways to validate and troubleshoot SD-WAN policies using performance metrics, network traffic analysis using flow data, and real-time WAN state changes utilizing log analytics
• Simultaneous collection and analysis of WAN and SD-WAN performance statistics to plan new or to adjust existing WAN application policies
• Monitoring the user experience within the context of the SD-WAN and the services being delivered by other parts of the network to and through the WAN
Must-Have: Flexible, and Scalable Digital Infrastructure Monitoring
If enterprises overlook these essential network visibility and assessment requirements, or attempt to handle them with outdated network monitoring solutions, they are putting their SD-WAN projects at risk. Some of the challenges they likely will face include:
• Lengthy MTTR times while trying to identify and mitigate performance issues and outages in their WAN and/or SD-WAN environments
• Unanticipated budget overruns and high TCO resulting from network tool proliferation
• High operating costs due to the lack of automation and the resulting high need for FTE count
• Inadequate visibility and a lack of reliable data on which to base capacity planning and other strategic business decisions
The good news for executives pursuing new SD-WAN deployments is that there is a new generation of digital infrastructure monitoring solutions available. These solutions, such as the SevOne digital infrastructure monitoring platform, are flexible, scalable, and smart enough to meet enterprises’ evolving WAN management needs today and in the future. Leveraging cloud computing and distributed architectures, these solutions give network operations team valuable capabilities, such as:
• Broad visibility into their existing WANs and new SD-WANs in a single dashboard
• Increased flexibility and high granularity in WAN and SD-WAN data collection and retention
• Integrated metrics, flows, logs and end user experience monitoring
• Coverage for all key monitoring and management requirements, which eliminates the costs and complexity of having to purchase and integrate or normalize multiple monitoring too
Make SD-WAN Your First Digital Transformation Success
Digital transformation is the path to a more profitable future for many companies, and SD-WAN deployments can be a great first step on that journey. Making the transition has inherent risks, but next-generation digital infrastructure monitoring solutions can effectively mitigate the risks. Moreover, the risks for any company not willing to consider reinventing itself with technology are growing larger all the time.