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As more companies transition from MPLS to SD-WAN, the migration process has become less uncertain and significantly more streamlined than in the technology’s early days.

A 2019 study conducted by IDC revealed that 39% of enterprises already have invested in SD-WAN solutions  and by 2021 the number of organizations deploying this technology will reach 94 percent.

As with any new technology, effective SD-WAN deployments require careful planning.  To avoid potential mis-steps, it is critical to determine the type(s) of connectivity a business will maintain as part of the switch. Many companies move from MPLS to direct Internet access (DIA) or broadband, and these access methods make up the majority of SD-WAN deployments. However, there are instances when larger enterprises will find that retaining an MPLS circuit is the right move. Often this is related to core applications with low tolerance for latency or stability issues. By leaving those workloads on MPLS, potential problems can be avoided. SD-WAN isn’t always the best solution for every use case and the adopting enterprise should understand where it makes sense to keep MPLS services active, even if they’re scale.

Security is another priority issue to keep in mind. Some vendors have more robust security integrations built into their SD-WAN solutions than others. Adopting enterprises may need to choose between implementing a cloud-based firewall or using onsite (CPE) appliances. New technologies are emerging that have security embedded into the technology, such as Fortinet and others. Some vendors, like Cato Networks deploy next-generation, cloud-based firewalls that are application aware, elastic, and scalable.  The range of options is growing, and when evaluating the SD-WAN solutions that best fit an enterprise’s  requirements, security should be part of that discussion to ensure the strategy developed and implemented today can evolve to anticipate future organizational infrastructure requirements.

Costs can often be difficult to forecast when it comes to SD-WAN migrations. While forecasting recurring costs is typically straightforward, it’s not uncommon that setup, construction, or other one-time expenses are needed which aren’t obvious at the outset of the project. For example, initial pricing provided by last-mile solutions providers may need to be adjusted once the vendor has had an opportunity to review the deployment. Additional construction costs for inside wiring are extremely common and it may be necessary for the provider to build out their infrastructure to handle the bandwidth required at the location. In a small number of cases, there’s no bandwidth at all available at the site, and more expenses will be needed to prepare it for the SD-WAN migration.

It’s crucial to clearly define cloud connectivity needs and expectations in the early stages of migration planning. Understanding where workloads are located is key to ensuring a smooth transition to SD-WAN and a seamless user experience going forward. Some organizations may  need to design their network to be relatively close to core workloads, for instance. If the network is replicated in another country for a business that operates internationally, it will be imperative to know where cloud connectivity points are located and how they’ll be managed throughout deployment.

Along with cloud connectivity, an evaluation of planned use of wireless access is also important. A decision to leverage wireless technology will influence configuration, with most networks delivering greater efficiency when their status is set for active-standby or potentially active-dynamic. This is because a setting of active-active will quickly consume the minutes on your wireless plan. The organization’s data plan availability and cost for any metered links will also impact decisions, and if active-active is the best configuration for the business, then both broadband and an Internet circuit deployment is recommended to ensure the most comprehensive availability.

Finally, organizations need to consider who will manage the network once the switch to SD-WAN is complete. Would support from a managed service provider be the best fit for the business? Does the  IT team have the time and expertise to take over long-term management? Will a carrier handle that function? Companies often begin the process with a plan to manage the network internally, but many find it’s more than they want to tackle. If that happens, you can still bring in a partner to take over management responsibilities post-deployment. Remember that turning management over to a vendor will increase your costs but the move will also free up your in-house staff for higher value tasks.

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