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Get into the nitty-gritty of SD-WAN technology

Discover SD-WAN outside of the fundamentals. Learn how it plays with management tools, get steps on how to transition from MPLS and read best practices for SD-WAN issues.

The time has come to go beyond the basics of software-defined WAN and dive into some technical and potentially overlooked aspects of the technology.

Organizations integrating SD-WAN into their existing infrastructures should know how SD-WAN technology interacts with other technologies, such as last-mile connections and IT service management, or ITSM. Knowing how to troubleshoot and monitor SD-WAN issues when faced with them is also a crucial part of network management.

Take a look at this compilation of expert advice that provides insight into the nitty-gritty parts of SD-WAN that can be easy to overlook.

How do last-mile connections work for SD-WAN deployments?

Having a single last-mile connection can prove faulty for an organization if a complication occurs that could put an entire location off the network. To combat this, John Burke, principal analyst at Nemertes Research, suggested having two different last-mile connections to all of an organization's important branches. This can make redundancy more beneficial.

SD-WAN technology takes last-mile connectivity a step further by letting a network use both of the last-mile links simultaneously -- something more difficult to achieve in legacy networks, Burke said. SD-WAN can then improve redundancy, while allowing organizations to mix connection types, such as MPLS and Ethernet. Yet, SD-WAN also has its faults and may increase the risk of provider sprawl -- a rapid surge in the number of providers with which an organization works.

Learn more about SD-WAN's effect on last-mile connections.

Four steps to start a successful migration from MPLS to SD-WAN technology

If you plan to switch from MPLS to SD-WAN technology, make sure you have a well-thought-out migration plan. Steve Garson, president of SD-WAN Experts, provided four key steps to smooth out this transition.

Knowing the ins and outs of your existing MPLS contract can help you avoid additional charges and discover the earliest time you can terminate the contract, Garson said. For organizations that still require MPLS services when migrating to SD-WAN, Garson encouraged negotiating more flexible MPLS services, such as moving to month-to-month services. He provided advice on ordering internet lines to use in conjunction with SD-WAN, as well.

Dive deeper into these steps for migrating technologies.

SD-WAN and SLAs: Why crafting internal SLAs is a smart move

Internal service-level agreements (SLAs) can better reflect business requirements, as they offer parameters specific to individual businesses. SLAs can help organizations discover which SD-WAN provider best meets their business needs. Robert Sturt, managing director of The Network Union, dissected how organizations should approach SLAs for SD-WAN services and how different they are from generic WAN SLAs.

Sturt compared traditional virtual private network SLAs with SD-WAN options, and he discussed how SD-WAN technology allows organizations to craft and control their own SLAs based on network analytics. He also disclosed how to use reporting capabilities and statistics to define internal SLAs for SD-WAN.

Discover more about internal SLAs for SD-WAN and the future of WAN SLAs.

What to consider when integrating SD-WAN and ITSM tools

Integrating SD-WAN technology with existing ITSM tools is beneficial for end-to-end visibility and management capabilities. Analyst Shamus McGillicuddy of Enterprise Management Associates discussed how and why organizations should prioritize this integration.

ITSM tools should play with SD-WAN, and the two can benefit each another, McGillicuddy said. But he noted a general lack of information on SD-WAN and ITSM integration from vendors -- even though organizations increasingly require the two together.

The integration has its potential faults, however, including a lack of data insight in the WAN transport layer. To avoid that pitfall, McGillicuddy said organizations should evaluate an SD-WAN product's data collection services before purchasing.

Explore more about SD-WAN's relationship with ITSM tools.

A deep dive into SD-WAN troubleshooting and monitoring

Despite its benefits, SD-WAN technology has its share of issues. Organizations should be prepared for those SD-WAN bugs that may occur and, therefore, have practical troubleshooting steps to follow. To help out, Terry Slattery, principal architect at NetCraftsmen, offered his advice for the SD-WAN troubleshooting process.

Slattery discussed the importance of monitoring SD-WAN, which includes similar steps found when monitoring regular networks. When troubleshooting SD-WAN, he said the key is to determine the problem. His five steps to troubleshooting should provide a helpful guide and improve the process altogether.

See more of Slattery's thoughts on troubleshooting SD-WAN issues.

This was last published in January 2019

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