Is SD-WAN as stupid a term as the cloud?

Previously, I wrote suggesting we all stop using the term hybrid WAN and standardize on SD-WAN. Scott Picket emailed me to challenge that.

Is SD-WAN as stupid a term as the cloud?
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Terms and technologies come and go. Some seem to stick around a bit longer than we’d like. I thought that it was time to retire hybrid WAN and give SD-WAN its due. Not everyone seems to agree.

I received a great email from Scott Pickett, who argued in the most compelling, polite way possible that he thought I was smoking too much of that substance Massachusetts just legalized (not exactly, but grant me the literary license here). He argued that SD-WANs should be relegated to that same place as the next least-favorite term of ours—the cloud.

scott picket image

Scott Pickett, senior network engineer

I told him I’m having way too much fun writing these blogs to start weeding around in my garden or anywhere else for that matter. But I did like Scott's response—so much that I asked permission to reprint it. He kindly agreed.

Kill hybrid WAN

For those of you who may not have memorized every one of my blog posts, las month, I wrote that using both hybrid WAN and SD-WAN spreads confusion in the marketplace. I argued that hybrid WANs aren’t all that different from the conventional WANs we’ve always delivered.

Rather, we should use the term that gets to the core value proposition distinguishing the new WAN. The core value is the ability to adapt the WAN to changing business needs by aligning routing with application and business requirements. This includes the flexibility to use any underlying infrastructure—and do all of this with a high degree of integration so that anyone can deploy a WANB appliance. I argued that the best term for this job was SD-WAN. You can read the blog in full here.

Kill SD-WANs

Scott respectfully disagreed that we should give SD-WAN its due:

The term 'SD-WAN' has been effectively destroyed by excessive marketing use.  Vendors and solution providers have slapped the 'SD-WAN' sticker on the following technologies as part of marketing strategy:

* Hybrid WAN
* Orchestration
* Automation
* Network Service Virtualization (NFV)
* White Box Networking
* Network Overlays
* Control Plane/Data Plane Dis-aggregation

I can’t really argue with him about vendors jumping on the SD-WAN bandwagon. After all, I’ve seen vendors selling equipment doing link bonding, load balancing and cloud services branding themselves as SD-WAN.

Scott further wrote:

Are there benefits to all of these technologies? Certainly. But labeling them all ‘SD-WAN’ has rendered the term as useless as ‘cloud.' It now contains neither description or precision. I would personally prefer that we quit using it or concede that it only has meaning in a marketing context.

A simple answer

Considering Scott’s email, I think we should consider using a different term. Something like a DMVPN with a route reflector and auto-configurable nodes that run DPI, load-balancing and end-to-end PFR. Maybe not. I agree the marketing wonks may have chomped up SD-WAN, but that’s going to happen with any term—I promise.

And make no mistake about it: We need a term for this new “thing.” It’s how we explain to the CFOs of the world why they need to fund this change. Not by upgrading routers or buying more bandwidth, but by rethinking our networks. Our WANs need to be simpler to manage and run. We shouldn’t have to pay MPLS costs if our applications don’t require that level of quality or service. We shouldn’t have to keep using CLIs and configuring each router individually when GUIs are the norm.

A lot of these issues (bandwidth side) are more usability issues than cost issues, which can make communicating their value to non-technical people challenging. A term like SD-WANs should make matters a bit simpler.

Scott concluded:

Thank you for your voice to the conversation. Best regards, Scott Pickett

No, thank you, Scott, for insight.

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