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Although software-defined WAN can be a huge labor-saver for IT, some organizations still want to outsource WAN management. As a result, managed SD-WAN is a fast-growing field, with most carriers, network service providers and even some general managed service providers now offering managed SD-WAN.
Since both the technology and the SD-WAN managed services are still pretty new, it's entirely possible that early managed SD-WAN adopters will come to realize they picked the wrong partner. If so, enterprise customers will need to find a different managed SD-WAN service provider and smoothly transition management from one to the other.
Four considerations when making the switch
Here are four key considerations enterprises should keep in mind as they make the switch from an existing managed SD-WAN service provider.
1. Be crystal clear on what went wrong with the first provider. Knowing what went wrong can help customers specifically select a new provider to fix the problem. Perhaps the existing provider's chosen platform turned out to be a bad fit for the customer's actual WAN usage. Maybe the provider failed to meet service-level agreements. Perhaps the provider's support organization is understaffed or experiencing major turnover that affects service. Or, maybe the provider is bad at managing third parties, like last-mile connectivity providers, for example. Whatever the reason, make sure the wisdom of experience informs the selection of the new managed SD-WAN service provider.
2. Involve the existing provider in transition planning. The provider will most likely hate being involved, but the enterprise and the new provider need the original provider to ensure a smooth transition.
The existing provider must accommodate your requests for changes, according to your contract, and a breach of contract will increase their costs in the long run. If the provider makes the change-over experience difficult, it loses any chance of winning other areas of your business, winning you back in the future or getting a good recommendation from you. Finally, it's worth noting that IT people have long memories and are hard to win back.
3. Establish policies in the new environment before transitioning connections. Experience with the former product will enable the enterprise to replicate policies that worked, or to institute new ones on the new service to fix problems uncovered under the previous service. The best-case scenario is the new platform might be the same as the old one -- assuming the technology wasn't the problem the first time around -- and policies can be recreated without fuss.
4. Transition connectivity in phases, starting with LTE. If the new service allows, start by adding Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless links into it. Using LTE allows customers to configure, manage and pilot traffic flows, without having to move cables.
Then, consider making the old service's LAN-side link an input to the new service before gradually moving links from the old to the new. Alternately, the two services could be linked in parallel, with both LAN-side links going to the same router or switch. Links could then be moved one by one to the new service, and the old service could be turned off when no longer linked to anything.
The transition doesn't need to be difficult
Given the prevalence of zero-touch configuration technologies, it should be possible for enterprises to make this shift with little or no intervention at each site, beyond the managed SD-WAN service provider talking on-site staff through the movement of network links.
Other transitional steps include working out IP addressing issues for the transition and transitional state monitoring. Putting the new service behind the old one would let the new service provider monitor the behavior of the old network as it was being disassembled.
Making the transition to a new managed SD-WAN service provider should be easier than ever before, thanks to the nature of SD-WAN. IT groups that have adopted early and aren't pleased with their SD-WAN service shouldn't feel trapped. Instead, they should start looking for a new provider as soon as they can, safe in the knowledge that the transition can be accomplished smoothly, with potentially no service interruption.