E-Handbook: What SD-WAN design considerations are most critical? Article 1 of 4

SD-WAN design considerations include cloud integration, costs

Preparation is an essential stage of any investment, including technology investments. When considering a technology upgrade, IT teams must document what their existing environments look like, how they perform and where they fall short. As teams research and compare feature sets and capabilities that best meet their design requirements, they must also gauge potential costs, technical debt and ROI.

Planning an investment in software-defined WAN technology is no different. By properly detailing their SD-WAN design considerations and requirements, IT teams can ensure they choose the option that meets their architecture, business and performance needs.

The SD-WAN planning process begins with an assessment of what the network infrastructure already looks like. Teams need to evaluate what type of connectivity their organizations already have and decide whether to keep, upgrade or replace those connections. Because of its overlay network, SD-WAN can run on an organization's existent underlying infrastructure. But teams will need to ensure they can configure their routers and gateways to integrate with the new SD-WAN appliances. They must also consider factors like device processing power, memory and bandwidth.

Another important SD-WAN design consideration is how the platform integrates and supports cloud environments. Enterprises increasingly rely on SaaS applications and cloud-based data centers. SD-WAN can provide connectivity to these destinations, but teams need to research providers' support for policy enforcement, encryption, external traffic routing and application performance.

Teams must also have a clear understanding of potential costs related to SD-WAN implementation and maintenance. These include both obvious and subtle expenses, such as adding connectivity links or switching to a new service provider. A thorough cost assessment helps teams present a compelling argument to IT decision-makers, properly allocate resources and estimate ROI. Most organizations can expect a transition period of at least 18 months.