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What questions should I ask about SD-WAN managed services?

When contemplating SD-WAN managed services offerings, organizations should ask questions about network security, infrastructure compatibility and bandwidth requirements.”

Software-defined WAN technologies have altered the managed WAN services landscape by offering distributed enterprises...

the benefits of internet economics and improved application performance. IT leaders considering SD-WAN managed services offerings should evaluate a range of criteria, including coverage, compatibility, application performance, security and cost.

Service providers have introduced a plethora of SD-WAN managed services offerings to complement, or even replace, their traditional MPLS and Ethernet WAN services. As with previous WAN offerings -- e.g., WAN optimization -- many customers can benefit from the simplicity of outsourcing SD-WAN deployment and management. SD-WAN technologies continue to improve their support for managed services, including multi-tenancy support, better security and improved management.

Key SD-WAN questions for IT managers

WAN connectivity requirements can vary widely, depending on geography, the number of branch locations, branch size, application type, application location -- whether in the data center or in a cloud environment -- or guest Wi-Fi requirements. IT leaders should carefully evaluate the current and expected WAN requirements in terms of bandwidth, application prioritization and security.

Here are some of the key SD-WAN questions IT leaders should ask when selecting from SD-WAN managed services offerings:

  • How does the SD-WAN managed service offering guarantee application performance for my critical applications? How easy is it for me to alter the application prioritization profiles?
  • How does the offer connect to SaaS and cloud-based applications? Are all cloud applications prioritized, or just the leading ones?
  • Is the offer compatible with my current network infrastructure? 
  • What is the cost of the SD-WAN managed service compared to existing offerings? How will costs change as WAN traffic patterns or bandwidth requirements evolve?
  • Does the service provider offer comprehensive WAN connectivity options across my entire global WAN footprint?
  • What is reliability of the WAN service? What service-level agreements are being offered?
  • What networks will be utilized -- e.g., MPLS and internet? Does the service provider offer 4G Long Term Evolution as a primary or secondary link option?
  • What level and type of network security is provided with the SD-WAN managed services offering? How will breaches be detected and fixed?
  • What management dashboards are available for me to easily see the health of my SD-WAN service?
  • Does the service offer bandwidth on demand? Does it provide the ability to easily scale bandwidth up or down to meet variable bandwidth requirements?
  • What are the support capabilities for the service? How good are the customer-satisfaction scores?

Next Steps

SD-WAN and MPLS can survive together

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This was last published in November 2017

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What are your organization's biggest considerations when it comes to SD-WAN managed services?
Lee - Nice article.

For those who want to see a summary of managed SD-WAN offerings, please take a look at "Service Providers Are Deploying SD-WAN" here: