MPLS Contract Renewals – When Should I Start Looking Into SD-WAN?

October 18, 2019

You may have seen the film ‘Groundhog Day’, but for those of you that haven’t, the premise is simple – the same thing happens over and over again. This post is reminiscent of that concept, as I’ve had the same conversation many times both internally and with customers lately – in short, organisations with a period of time to run on their MPLS contract (some a few months, some over 2 years) are saying one of two things –

“I have “x” months to run on my MPLS contract – I’ll wait until nearer that termination date to look at SD-WAN.”

“Why should I look at SD-WAN, as I’m under contract for another “x” months with my Service Provider?”

Hence this post, which has a simple message and a simple answer to the title question. In fact, a one-word answer, if I may be so bold. “NOW.”

I’ve seen many articles, viewed a lorry load of marketing information from the myriad vendors in this space, and heard a lot of conversation over the last few years, where the mantra was that SD-WAN is the MPLS “killer” – or to put it another way, buy SD-WAN and you don’t need MPLS. This, in effect, made the two things appear at opposite ends of a scale to each other (i.e. it’s one or the other) – but I’d like to clarify this a little.

SD-WAN is transport agnostic – as such, the real message here is that if your business has a legitimate commercial or technical reason for using MPLS today and into the future (and whilst we are at it, let’s include DIA, LTE and any other type of circuit you may require), then that’s fine, carry on! SD-WAN will consider your MPLS circuit as a potential path for your traffic based on the application policies you describe on the orchestrator of your chosen technology along with any other types of circuit, and route as appropriate. SD-WAN and MPLS are not mutually exclusive.

It is absolutely true to say that deploying an SD-WAN solution could lead you to a destination where you can eliminate MPLS (for the most part or sometimes entirely). Some will do this over time, some immediately, it just depends on your circumstances. But let me be clear about something really important. Those thinking that they should only look at SD-WAN as a wholesale replacement for MPLS could be missing a significant opportunity to start exploiting all the other significant benefits SD-WAN offers today.

This post won’t go into the long list of benefits that can be gained through an SD-WAN deployment, many of which you’ve probably already read about (but you’re more than welcome to get in touch and I can walk you through them). The purpose here is to answer the question above, which essentially asks when the right time is to look at SD-WAN, to which I have answered, ‘now’.

So, to the justification.

Let’s imagine that your MPLS contract is up for renewal in 12 months and that you’re dealing with other projects and thinking that you’ll start to look at SD-WAN 3 months before the contract renewal, or perhaps even nearer (exercising the option to roll your contract on a monthly basis). What decisions do you need to make? Do you need more or less bandwidth? Do you need more Internet and less MPLS? Are you still happy with active/backup circuits? The list continues, but, what information do you have to base the ultimate decision on?

Most will have a combination of some data from NPM tools, information from the business on growth expectations, data from application teams, and even a gut feel based on experience and understanding of the business. But few will have absolute clarity on what the actual WAN traffic looks like in the context of the underlaying circuits and how they perform/meet requirements, especially since more of that data is flowing outside of the traditional DC/Branch network (i.e. Cloud, SaaS).

So, imagine you have SD-WAN deployed – how does this help with decision making?

Well, imagine having deep visibility into all the traffic patterns across the WAN (including Cloud instances), and being able to create detailed reports that show key information around circuit performance and circuit utilisation. Add to that information on where WAN optimisation has a benefit and where it does not. You’re now able to categorically prove that the MPLS circuits that you may be paying a premium for are fit for purpose and justifiable, or massively under-utilised as the traffic that once saturated those links is now going via the Internet, and consider where DIA and LTE may play of a more prevalent role in your WAN.

Ignoring all other benefits, deploying SD-WAN today solely from the perspective of circuit planning can substantially remove the guesswork and planning for the underlying transport requirements that meet your business needs now and into the future.

Running a POC with Teneo can start to shed some light on what’s really happening in your network. Obviously, it’s also the perfect time to explore all the other benefits of SD-WAN you would enjoy. Most people we talk to lack the necessary tools, and get very little useful information from their Service Providers on which to make decisions, so acting sooner rather than later will avoid last minute reactive choices, which often will have less than desirable commercial consequences, and possibly even leave your WAN inadequate to cope with the demands of your changing business and application demands.

To find out more about Teneo’s SD-WAN approach and experience, and the various engagement models available to begin your SD-WAN journey, please get in touch.

Blog author: Adam Start

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