SD-WAN reminds me of two experiences I’VE had in my career.
The first is Server Virtualisation; the wave that everyone rode (some earlier than others), which brought operational and business benefits, sometimes in a very short timeframe (i.e. almost immediate ROI), to everyone that embraced the concept, regardless of whether that was Hyper-V, VMware, or another hypervisor option. This was a great period of my career where I helped a large number of organisations move their infrastructures forward into the future, enabling better availability, visibility, and agility, saving them a ton of money in the process.
The second is the birth of Cloud – which bit of Cloud I hear you ask. Simply the announcement of this single word, in just about every context in IT you could imagine, by all sorts of vendors and Service Providers. Suddenly everything was Cloud related, yet, with so much variety it couldn’t mean one thing now could it? For me, it was exciting, and at the same time lacked clarity (and in some cases was outright mis-representation).
So, why do these experiences remind me of SD-WAN, and why the heading of this post? What does “good enough” even mean these days, especially in the context of IT?
I thought about this, and I realised that when I hear ‘good enough’ I tend to associate this with the word ‘temporary’. It certainly doesn’t overwhelm me with feelings of longevity (think about the spare wheel in your car only good for a few miles at 50mph), or indeed an optimal experience. Does a decision to buy something that is “good enough” come from a position of weakness (i.e. time pressure, budget pressure), from not knowing what the road ahead looks like longer term (i.e. vision), or even through lack of clarity and understanding (i.e. confusion).
SD-WAN is everywhere – and rightly so. It’s a great way of transforming a legacy network, ready for the modern world where applications live in the Cloud, users work from multiple devices in multiple locations, the security threat landscape is widening, and everyone needs more agility and flexibility than ever before. The challenge that awaits all organisations who are yet to start this journey into network transformation is significant. It throws up all kinds of questions. When should we do it? Should we use our Service Provider for this? Which technology vendor is right for us? How will we roll this out, can we afford it? The list of questions goes on. But I think that the Ultimate question you should be asking is around quality. How do I end up with something deployed that is optimal, for all the right technical, commercial and business reasons, and not just “good enough”?
Having worked with 6 SD-WAN vendors so far and spent time with a number of others to a lesser degree, it is clear to me that overall, the baseline of the technology available across the board is very good – in some respects, it is hard to make a bad decision. Vendors that are ahead with features typically don’t stay ahead for too long before the pack catches up, so in some respects your exposure to risk can be short-term. But what about the medium to long-term outlook for your business, and the potential SD-WAN technology provider you may choose to partner with (I refer back to my point above on Cloud and the question of clarity – all of these SD-WAN vendors seem to be saying the same thing) – is there alignment?
The worst thing that can happen when deploying any technology, is to find that early into its lifecycle, it is no longer fit for purpose.
One of the key reasons this can happen is a failure at the outset to properly capture requirements (business, technical, commercial, regulatory), and test how they align with potential technologies. Concessions at this stage, or not capturing key requirements from all areas of your business, can result in a solution being deployed that is on the face of it “good enough”, but in many ways, is likely to be a problem waiting to happen. And being that this is your network – the very thing that connects everyone to everything – it’s a situation that should be avoided at all costs.
Here’s the key point – SD-WAN can and will have dramatically positive effects on your network, and from my perspective, it is a case of when and not if you will deploy SD-WAN using someone’s technology. The experience you will hopefully have with SD-WAN should be reminiscent of that which you had with Server Virtualisation. That said, your objective should be to choose the optimal solution at the outset …. not necessarily an easy thing to do with all the “noise” coming from over 60+ vendors, the Service Provider community (think AT&T, BT, OBS etc.), and VARs / Specialist Integrators. Make the wrong decision, and at best you might miss out on a feature or two don’t have serious consequences for your specific organisation …at worst, you could ham-string your organisation from a network topology perspective, negatively impact application performance, or lose visibility as you evolve your hybrid network into the Cloud.
If you would like to see how Teneo’s team and processes help you avoid choosing something that is “good enough”, please get in touch.