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Should organizations bundle SD-WAN, UCaaS together?

Organizations may consider pairing SD-WAN and UCaaS services to avoid complexity from multivendor services and gain potential synergy. But the combo can also create challenges.

Communications now come in many forms, including voice (telephony), video, meeting services, presence and messaging, and more.

Companies like Avaya, Cisco and Vonage now bundle these capabilities together and sell them as unified communications (UC). As consumption models -- or buying as a service -- gain favor over Capex models, UC has followed the same trajectory. Organizations can now purchase UC as a service, called UCaaS.

When UCaaS ties branch offices back to headquarters, the service runs over WAN connections. As companies begin to deploy software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) for improved WAN management and cloud connectivity, it seems UCaaS, which also runs over the WAN, might synergize well with SD-WAN if bundled together.

Will an organization gain efficiency if it bundles SD-WAN and UCaaS together? Probably not.

Two reasons SD-WAN, UCaaS might not pair well

Below are two reasons why an SD-WAN and UCaaS pairing may not increase an organization's efficiency.

1. Bundling disparate services isn't easy. UCaaS is designed to cover a complete enterprise, not just branch offices. A business would likely create a suboptimal pairing if it bundled a branch office connectivity product with an enterprise-wide communications product.

Even if a business relies on Cisco for both its UC services and its SD-WAN implementation, the business either manages these two products as separate entities within the Cisco world or this single-vendor reliance may result from separate company acquisitions. The only real synergy may come on the purchase order, but the purchasing cycles for these products may be out of sync because different organizations drive their own purchase decisions.

2. Potential flexibility limitations for the future. SD-WAN should be invisible to applications on an SD-WAN connection. The whole idea behind SD-WAN is to abstract control of a connection from everything running over it. If UCaaS is optimized for a specific SD-WAN implementation, this begs the bigger question of whether some type of tie-in exists between the two services that may limit a business's decisions in the future.

This was last published in March 2020

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