The first place to tackle SDN? In the WAN

Michael Elmore of Cigna argues that the best initial use case for SDN is in the wide area network

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approaches will overlay Internet transport in the long run. The timing seems appropriate, especially given the maturation that has taken place with real-time services and codecs moving from narrow band to wide band, driving up the tolerance for Internet performance characteristics.

So, if an organization likes the sounds of SD-WANs, what kinds of questions should they be mulling to see if it is good option for them? 

  1. How available is Ethernet access as it relates to your remote site foot-print? Many of the non-traditional suppliers will offer SD-WAN services with Ethernet interfaces.
  2. Will the solution support TDM interfaces?
  3. How will the hardware integrate with the LAN side routing (inline or via industry standard routing protocols)?
  4. What is the tooling and instrumentation and strategy? Will the solution integrate with existing toolsets or move to a new operations / instrumentation model?
  5. What’s the pricing model? Before moving into a POC or pilot, customers should ensure they have a deep understanding for the unit pricing and financial model including subscription, licensing, maintenance and hardware costs. Much like the transition to cloud based SaaS applications; some solutions may drive new internal accounting questions.

Are there remaining concerns or potential speed bumps that enterprise customers should consider?

The SD-WAN approach could also lead to carrier proliferation. How many carriers are too many? One side of the spectrum will suggest the more carriers, the better unit pricing. However, the resources required to manage a certain number of carriers may ultimately be unsustainable, hitting a diminishing marginal utility effect.

There is also the question of open versus closed. Many of these solutions will be shrink wrapped and closed alternatives, so if you desire openness and the desire to integrate multiple suppliers across a single overlay, you may need to wait.

It’s clear that the time is now for enterprises to perform a market scan and develop a detailed set of problem statements to address. As a potential SD-WAN consumer here in the early stages of this emerging market, you have an opportunity to help guide development efforts and prioritization with the core suppliers.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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