4 common mistakes when starting an SD-WAN project

March 14, 2018


I’ve pooled together my years of SD-WAN knowledge and experience to bring you the top 4 mistakes I’ve seen others make when starting an SD-WAN project. My objective isn’t to gloat in any way, but to pass the learning points on so that others may avoid such pitfalls in future! So here they are, the top 4 mistakes I’ve seen, in no particular order.

Mistake 1: Not being clear what SD-WAN means to you at the start of the project

The first questions we always ask a potential customer are “What does SD-WAN mean to you?”, “What are your business drivers for SD-WAN?”, “What would be classed as a successful SD-WAN Deployment?” and “What does your current WAN not allow you to do?”.

Doing this work upfront rather than looking at vendors’ technology first is key as this information should be what sets the agenda for any technology presentations. That way you can stay focused on how the technology can help your business by providing a solution rather than getting caught up in lists of features and benefits and speeds and feeds.

Mistake 2: Thinking all SD-WAN Solutions are the same

There’s a lot of confusion in the SD-WAN space. The Gartner definition of an SD-WAN solution is as follows:

“SD-WAN solutions employ centrally managed WAN edge devices placed in branch offices to establish logical connections with other branch edge devices across the physical WAN. These logical connections create secure paths across multiple WAN connections and carriers, such as hybrid internet and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) architectures.”

While it reads well, this definition is very much open to interpretation and it’s not surprising therefore that the 40+ vendors within the SD-WAN space have all approached the market in different ways. Some have focused on routing capabilities, others have focused on path selection and moving packets efficiently, others enable you to remove devices at the WAN edge by combining technologies such as WAN Op, Firewalls etc.

This is where understanding what SD-WAN means to your company at the start will help guide you through the minefield of technology selection.

Mistake 3: Only using online resources for SD-WAN technology shortlisting/selection

The web has become that all-knowing place to go to get any information you need, however in the case of SD-WAN a lot of it can be out of date the second it’s been published. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great demos and discussions out there, especially items like Tech Field Day that have live audiences asking the exact same questions you might’ve just been thinking about.

But due to the speed of development within the SD-WAN arena, those online resources should always be backed up by an in-person meeting. And make sure that meeting includes a presentation that not only shows how the technology fits with your requirements now, but also how the roadmap looks set to fit the future direction of your business.

An independent SD-WAN consultant such as Teneo can understand your needs, help you create a shortlist and make final recommendations.

Mistake 4: Believing the marketing hype about simplicity


Every vendor’s marketing has focused on how easy it seems to be to deploy a remote branch office or bring a connection up to the Cloud. And yes, in a fully greenfield environment I’d agree with this. BUT from our experience in working with companies that have multiples sites and mature legacy networks, you’re going to have the same challenges you faced when you first deployed MPLS.

Implementing an SD-WAN network means replacing your current network. Remember how long it took you to implement your last MPLS network? The design work and planning is key. Ask yourself, how do sites on the underlay network talk to the sites on the new SD-WAN network? How is traffic to be segmented? Is local internet breakout going to be implemented and how is that going to be kept secure?

Sufficient consultancy services need to be factored into any SD-WAN project, no matter how much control you want to keep internally. But these services will only help you to achieve your SD-WAN goals.

Helping you avoid SD-WAN pitfalls at the start of a project

Some of this might seem like common sense to you, but it took someone else to experience the pain of a new SD-WAN project for others to learn what to avoid. Teneo’s SD-WAN Workshop irons out kinks such as these right from the off for a smooth SD-WAN project experience. Contact me at msollars@teneo.net or call me on +44 7968 713 716 if you could use some SD-WAN help.

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