SD-WAN is a relatively new technology, and like most new technologies, it iterates rapidly. A new report from Gartner points out that that your SD-WAN implementation might not actually last much longer than your average smartphone. The research giant suggests that adopters plan for a three-year depreciation cycle – in other words, if you purchase an SD-WAN solution now, it might be obsolete by the end of the decade.
For potential SD-WAN consumers, there’s a very real dilemma. Do you believe that, in the three years that it will take for your SD-WAN to lose its value, that you’ll be able to cover its cost? Let’s break down the numbers around the value of SD-WAN, and explore the potential of an ROI.
SD-WAN vs. MPLS
First of all, for companies that already have an MPLS, SD-WAN is not a replacement, but a complement. SD-WAN provides telemetry and management at the edge of the network only, and while it can shunt applications to paths that have the highest QoS, it cannot guarantee that a high-QoS path exists. Only MPLS can guarantee high QoS while providing management and telemetry for an entire network.
That being said, SD-WAN does many things that MPLS can’t. Not only is it cheaper to implement SD-WAN, because it operates on pre-built consumer-grade internet connections, it’s also easier to operate. The cost savings also come from the fact that SD-WAN uses a centralized management system that doesn’t require a skilled operator.
Therefore, for companies that already have an MPLS, it may not make sense to rip-and-replace it with SD-WAN – but it may make sense to build an SD-WAN on top of your MPLS the next time you scale out. Since SD-WAN scales out quickly, makes it easy to gather edge telemetry, and doesn’t require companies to hire new staff or retrain personnel, this technology would be perfect when adding a new cloud application or opening a branch office.
SD-WAN From the Ground Up?
What about green-field deployments? If you’re building an organization from the ground up, with no prior MPLS connection (or other dedicated network management protocols), does it make sense to invest in SD-WAN?
Once again, your choice is going to be what matters here. There are a huge number of new SD-WAN solutions coming out, now with different abilities and options. Some of these are going to be enduring, long-lasting solutions and brands in the world of telecommunications. Others are going to be the SD-WAN equivalent of a Zune.
Gartner recommends the following attributes for an SD-WAN solution that will be worth your investment:
- Don't compromise. Find the solution that will get you every feature you want, right now, at the right price. Since market consolidation will be the biggest contributor towards SD-WAN depreciation, you won't be able to guarantee that your chosen vendor will be able to deliver more features and value three years down the line.
- Choose x86 open architecture as your hardware platform for SD-WAN, and make sure that the appliance will integrate with your virtualized devices. This will ensure that even if your SD-WAN choice depreciates quickly, you won't find yourself locked into the same vendor when it comes time to replace it.
- When signing a contract, technology refresh clauses will be your friend. If your vendor is the subject of a merger or an acquisition in the next few years, you'll want to defray the cost of finding a new solution.
As of right now, there are only 3,000 SD-WAN deployments, according to the Gartner estimate. If you can't find the exact SD-WAN solution to fit your needs, it's probably okay to sit on your heels for a year or so. By 2020, however, there won't just be a massive explosion in the number of SD-WAN deployments — they're projected to eat up 20% of the preexisting market in routers. In other words, your next technology refresh will almost certainly include some SD-WAN elements.
Support SD-WAN Deployments with Edgewater Networks
No matter which SD-WAN deployment you choose, Edgewater Networks lets you add value with advanced analytics, additional security features, and granular management options. Our vendor-neutral technology solutions will help you extend the lifespan of SD-WAN, and make it easier to trade-up once it reaches end-of-life. For more information, contact Edgewater Networks today.