Businesses that invest in SDWAN reap many benefits – easy to set up and manage, rapid rollout, cost optimisation, improved connectivity – however, there is one difficult decision businesses need to make when they choose an SDWAN solution, who will manage and monitor the network infrastructure. Will the solution be self-managed or fully managed? This decision can be somewhat easy from some businesses; however, for others, it will require more consideration and planning.
Deciding should be made forthright. Businesses need to ask themselves whether they have the internal capability of meeting the service level agreements (SLA), hardware and software patching and updates, installation, and configuration, and supporting the SDWAN and underlay network connections. If a business does not have the required resources and skills in-house, it is strongly advised that it considers having its network fully managed by a managed SDWAN service provider.
If your business has multiple branches and you would like an SD-WAN solution to be rolled out seamlessly, with a guaranteed service level agreement (SLAs), no compatibility issues, reduced and controlled management overheads, regular updates to infrastructure, then your business should consider a managed SD-WAN service.
Implementing and managing your SDWAN solution internally often requires increasing your resources and lengthening the amount of time it will take before you start to see the benefits. It could be very costly, and there is a risk of high turnover during the rollout of the project.
With managed SD-WAN services, the provider will supply all the hardware, software, networking infrastructure needed to deliver the right level of service – for example, connectivity for X number of branches - with appropriate service-level agreements (SLAs) for uptime and performance. This will certainly help you taking control of costs on implementation and management while achieving great outcomes.
Many service providers will focus on providing an end-to-end service, from installation, troubleshooting, monitoring, and optimising the SD-WAN units across each of your business’s workplaces, which in turn will free your IT team up to focus on the applications which will generate business growth.
If your business has a highly skilled IT team that is guaranteed to be with you for the entire life of the project, can make informed decisions on architecture, has a flexible installation timeframe and budget, which can factor in unforeseen costs, then completing the project internally might be the most appropriate way forward. However, to take full advantage of the technology and capitalise on the solution, there may still be a need to develop new skill sets.
A well-structured vendor-selection process and a clearly defined pilot are critical when choosing which SD-WAN solution (e.g. Velocloud, Cisco Meraki, Cisco Viptela) will best fit the business’s specific needs and continuing to educate the IT team. During the pilot, businesses should use the time to identify operational challenges and how the organisation will best adapt to the changes, and how the solution will best address the real pain points (e.g. improving application performance).
Warning - If your business chooses to self-manage its SD-WAN and doesn’t have a strong internal networking capability, here’s a health warning. The benefits of SDWAN are widely publicised (i.e. zero-touch set-up; centralised control and rapid reconfiguration; reduction in engineering effort; easy optimisation of application traffic management enabled through smart technology and a ready repository of ready-made rules and application policies; all supported by unparalleled performance, visibility, and analytics). While much of this may be true, businesses should still very carefully assess whether they do have the skills and knowledge to self-manage from end to end. It just not that simple, and many things can still go wrong, at a cost. Is it worth the risk?
In addition to the abovementioned benefits, a managed SD-WAN service can offer businesses value-added conveniences that are beyond just an end-to-end service, including advisory, assessment, design, implementation of an SDWAN solution.
These services can help businesses manage the different stages of an entire solution cycle, from developing the strategy, vendor/solution selection and evaluation, architecture and design, and implementation. Each of these steps demands a highly skilled team and intensive effort, both of which are beyond a business’s internal IT team. And yet each step is necessary to ensure the right solution is implemented and it delivers the outcome that aligns best with your business strategies.