The SD-WAN evolution: Gen2 has what Gen1 lacks
When it comes to networking, software is the new hardware. Advancements in software-defined networking (SDN) such as application awareness, service consistency and simplified management can help drive the development of better user experiences based on expanding levels of intelligence in all layers of the network. With the introduction of more flexible, open and cloud-based wide area network (WAN) technologies into the market, many enterprise customers are asking: is it time to get an SD-WAN solution?
To adopt, or not to adopt, SD-WAN?
Though the current state of SD-WAN adoption is low, that is expected to change soon due to enhanced focus on cloud delivery models. Leading industry analysts have indicated the SD-WAN industry is still in its infancy, but it is expected to scale up to significant levels in the next three years.
Why is an increase in SD-WAN adoption anticipated? The answer lies in understanding the limitations of the first generation of SD-WAN (Gen1) and how certain features in the second generation of SD-WAN (Gen2) help to eliminate or minimize those limitations. Here are some key limitations:
Gen1 SD-WAN products aren’t fully aligned with multi-cloud models
The first generation of SD-WAN doesn’t address the transition from data-center based application delivery to multi-cloud application delivery models. This is an issue because modern enterprises want to deliver applications to their users from data centers, private clouds, public clouds and SaaS locations. Such a multi-cloud approach requires application networking (L3 through L7) so that network policies can be managed at the application level. However, Gen1 SD-WAN solutions are based on routing packets and can only define or enforce policies based on L3, L4 and link conditions. Hence, it is difficult for networking teams to justify an architectural update to a WAN that is not aligned to multi-cloud environments.
Gen1 SD-WAN products aren’t application aware
With limited to no awareness of applications, sessions or transactions, Gen1 SD-WAN products are typically unable to identify applications or sub-applications. They also have little to no understanding of how the applications are performing
Gen1 SD-WAN products have external dependencies
Most Gen1 SD-WAN solutions are closely aligned to carriers and are dependent on vendor-specific hardware and software.
Gen2 SD-WAN features
As a result of cloud transformation, several improvements have been made in the next generation of SD-WAN solutions. Here’s where they really differentiate:
Gen2 SD-WAN products are closely aligned to multi-cloud models
With Gen2 SD-WAN, the application can reside in a data center, private cloud, public cloud or be delivered through software as a service (SaaS). Multi-cloud delivery enablement is a huge improvement because it gives customers carrier freedom and supports more valuable policy controls, enforcement and visibility based on actual applications.
Gen2 SD-WAN delivered in the cloud is designed to be a self-driven network
As self-driven networks, Gen2 SD-WAN products are designed to be autonomous, cognitive, self-healing and self-configuring. This means they can natively provide deep application analytics and auto-correct the network based on those insights.
Gen2 SD-WAN products are better aligned to cloud-based security architectures
Gen2 SD-WAN solutions provide enhanced integration with best-in-class cybersecurity vendors and support the movement from on premises to cloud-based security solutions. This helps to enable a consistent security perimeter.
Gen2 SD-WAN supports a new breed of monitoring tools
Monitoring tools can be easily positioned external to the SD-WAN overlay to provide usage and performance level insights.
Gen2 SD-WAN is well-suited for carrier-neutral colocations
Carrier-neutral colocations are forming the new network backbone. Thus, providers are offering API-based flex capacity between locations and connectivity types.
Choosing the right SD-WAN solution
Now that you’ve seen how far SD-WAN has come, the question should no longer be whether to adopt SD-WAN, but which Gen2 SD-WAN solution you should choose.
Picking the right SD-WAN solution can be intimidating. Another benefit of the second generation of SD-WAN solutions is that they provide an enhanced level of support for non-carrier-based service providers and service integrators. That means you can get help from a service provider who isn’t trying to sell you a particular SD-WAN solution or connectivity. This is a major advantage because enterprises often obtain a significantly different perspective when working with a service provider or integrator that is not aligned to the underlying infrastructure and vendor and carrier neutral.
For enterprises with a highly distributed environment and a business case based on displacing MPLS connectivity, a non-carrier-based service provider or service integrator will generally go much further to find innovative and low-cost connectivity options.
How can IBM help?
IBM can help you select the SD-WAN solution that will best fit your business and technology priorities. Through SDN and SD-WAN consulting services, which are propelled by specialized tools and methodologies, IBM experts provide clear, quantifiable guidance that can help you choose between leading SD-WAN solution vendors and help you craft your overall SD-WAN strategy and transition roadmap.
Build your transformation journey with IBM’s lifecycle-based approach that spans strategy, design, implementation and management. Learn more about IBM Network Consulting Services and IBM MultiNetwork Services.