According to Gartner (Survey Analysis: SD-WAN Early Findings Yield Surprises, published: 15 November 2017, ID: G00343588), there are 30 plus SD-WAN technology vendors ambitiously seeking to grow their share in this flourishing market. When you embark on the journey to SD-WAN transformation, at some point you will need to evaluate and decide on a preferred SD-WAN technology vendor – and this is often no easy task for many organizations as there is no “one-size-fits-all” type of technology available in the market today. In this blog, I would like to point out a couple of key considerations aside from the features and functionalities (which is certainly also important) that may help you in your search for “your” best SD-WAN technology.

Is the SD-WAN vendor sustainable – are they going to be around in the market for years to come? This is a difficult question to answer but something you want to be confident of before making the investment. With so many vendors out there we will almost certainly see vendor shakeouts continue as evidenced in 2017 (during 2017 we saw the acquisition of Viptela by Cisco and VeloCloud by VMware). In making an assessment, ask the vendor about its long-term plans and consider its funding and financial stability. Vendors that have been acquired by an established company such as Viptela and Velocloud may be reassuring; however, keep in mind that their primary objectives, post-acquisition, will be focused on integration efforts and this may result in a lack of innovation in the short term.

Which TelCos and Managed Services Providers support the SD-WAN technology? This may sound not so relevant for enterprises thinking to deploy the solution on their own (i.e., DIY) but it still matters as in the future a change in the business environment and direction may require you to engage a Managed Service Provider to take on the day-to-day operation and management of the SD-WAN solution. As such, it is important for you to know the options you have at your disposal in terms of the full lifecycle of the SD-WAN solution – i.e., design, delivery, operations and management. The caveat is that many of the service providers support one or two preferred vendors whom they partner with; on the other hand, there are service providers such as NTT Communications that are vendor agonistic in approach which extend future options.

What are your key drivers for SD-WAN? This may be the most important factor. With all of the hype surrounding SD-WAN, it is natural for you to consider deploying SD-WAN for any green-field deployments or network renewal initiatives; however, it is important to know what you really want to achieve with an SD-WAN deployment and transition. In planning for an SD-WAN deployment, you certainly need to have a good understanding about the current state of the network, and identify the transformation objectives and the high priority issues that you want to resolve or improve upon – and this should ultimately drive your decision about which SD-WAN vendor technology to leverage.

In summary, consider and qualify:

  1. Prospective vendor strategy, financial stability and its product roadmap
  2. Consider MSP strategies as a contingency and mid to long term option
  3. Be clear about your objectives for an SD-WAN deployment and align these with prospective vendor features and roadmaps