This content is part of the Essential Guide: What is SD-WAN? Future, challenges, benefits of SD-WAN technology
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Infographic: Compare the leading SD-WAN vendors before you buy

A good starting point for SD-WAN, this infographic provides a leading SD-WAN vendor comparison of their deployment options, pricing, cloud connectivity options and more.

Preparing for software-defined WAN deployment requires substantial research to determine what organizations need...

from their WANs. But with a growing number of options in the market, choosing which SD-WAN vendor to go with can be overwhelming. To help out, the infographic below provides readers with an SD-WAN vendor comparison.

Our editors focused on enterprise SD-WAN technology and only included vendors that directly offer an SD-WAN service to customers -- no middleware or resellers. This vendor comparison does not include fully managed SD-WAN options offered by service providers.

In the chart below, you'll find a side-by-side comparison of 13 SD-WAN vendors -- listed alphabetically -- that addresses a variety of important features to consider, including security, WAN optimization, deployment options, public cloud connectivity and available pricing.

SD-WAN requirements considered givens are not broken down in the vendor comparison. These include the following:

  • The SD-WAN platform should create a network overlay that abstracts the existing WAN.
  • It should enable dynamic bandwidth allocation for traffic efficiency.
  • It should be transport-agnostic and support multiple types of connectivity -- MPLS, Ethernet, cellular and broadband, for example. 
SD-WAN vendor comparison

Additional questions to ask about SD-WAN technology

When looking for the right SD-WAN option for your company, it's a good idea to add the following questions to your vendor comparison list.

How easy is SD-WAN deployment and provisioning? The majority of SD-WAN vendors say they offer zero-touch provisioning. But even with that, remember, configuration for any organization's deployment will still take some time. It's a question of how much and how easy. Some options may require a few more steps before the SD-WAN connection is established, compared with plugging cables into an SD-WAN device that automatically begins provisioning.

What routing and other protocols does the SD-WAN technology support? Check with each prospective SD-WAN vendor to determine which routing protocols -- such as Border Gateway Protocol, Open Shortest Path First and static routing -- its equipment supports. Also, factor in IPv6 support, if that is an important consideration for your organization. Versa Networks, for example, supports IPv6 addresses, while Silver Peak supports IPv6 forwarding. CloudGenix uses an approach that eliminates the need for routing protocols, but it offers backing for standard routing protocols during a customer transition.

Does the SD-WAN platform require specialty edge devices? Are those devices available in both virtual and physical hardware options? Is the hardware proprietary, or can you use commodity hardware? Also, ask how the vendor's SD-WAN equipment integrates with existing routers and legacy networks.

What are the monitoring, management and reporting capabilities? SD-WAN technology can monitor traffic to help improve application performance and security. Most SD-WAN vendors include management and monitoring capabilities with the SD-WAN platform. Others work with third-party management tools, and some offer additional, more comprehensive software for customers to purchase.

What partnerships does the SD-WAN vendor have in place? Many SD-WAN vendors have established partnerships with security providers, like Zscaler and Palo Alto Networks, to integrate their security services with SD-WAN technology. Also, take into consideration any potential SaaS integration and partnerships the SD-WAN vendor might have.

Next Steps

What to look for in an SD-WAN service

Video: Know your SD-WAN options

SD-WAN has some pitfalls to consider

This was last published in September 2018

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What factors would make a vendor's SD-WAN service stand out as a viable option for your organization?
Disclosure: I'm the technology evangelist in the office of the CTO for Cato Networks. The views expressed here are mine. 

Based on my experience working across SD-WAN vendors, engaging with dozens of IT managers directly, and in our recent survey of more than 350 IT professionals, a number of factors come to mind (in no particular order):
1. Easy transition. Hybrid configurations of SD-WAN and MPLS are a requirement for most enterprises. More than half of respondents to our survey expect MPLS investment to increase or stay the same. 
2. SLAs / predictability. IT managers need to accommodate for the erraticness of the Internet. In some cases, they only move applications from MPLS to the Internet that are less critical to the business and/or are not significantly impacted by changes in latency and loss. In other cases, they have technology preferences, looking for SD-WAN providers that run their own backbones or have loss/latency compensating technology. 
3. Security is very important. If the Internet is going to be the backbone then you need more than the encrypted tunnels of SD-WAN. Your vendor should articulate a strategy for delivering firewalling, secure web gateways, IPS, anti-malware etc. to branch offices without having to incur the latency of backhauling traffic. 
4. Cloud support is a given.  SD-WAN private cloud (AWS/Azure/Google etc.) support was a novelty at one time, but today it's essential for a complete enterprise. 
5. Rapid deployment. Should be obvious, but rapid installs continue to be a priority. It's not that way with every vendor. 
6. Maturity.  Company maturity and product stability - the things we always look at with new technologies - are equally important with SD-WANs. 
7. Management - It's a given that every vendor will provide centralized management of the SD-WAN. Understanding how that management involves others areas, such as security policies, is important.

For those interested. The complete survey results are available here.

Which SD-WAN features would your organization look for from a vendor?