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    March 21, 2024

    Tame the Complexity of Software-Defined WANs and Hybrid Networks

    Three Core Tactics

    As organizations increase their dependence on the cloud, they also add pressure on their wide area network (WAN) infrastructure. Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) comes as an ideally suited solution for implementing distributed networking over commercially available Internet access. However, shifting from the traditional WAN introduces challenges such as the increased complexity of full mesh topologies, the difficulties in maintaining visibility into multi-vendor landscapes, and the lack of internal skills required to deploy SD-WAN.

    Even if SD-WAN is recognized as a cost-effective and flexible alternative to traditional WANs, the high rate of failed deployments indicates that achieving a successful implementation is more complex than it seems. To deploy SD-WAN effectively, IT and network operations teams must be prepared to address these challenges and embrace new approaches to network management. By doing so, organizations can dramatically increase their chances of successfully deploying SD-WAN and fully leveraging the significant benefits this technology offers.

    The three following tactics can help to manage SD-WAN effectively and establish a reliable and efficient environment that meets the demands of the modern WAN.

    1. Unified observability across vendors and technologies

    Many organizations are adopting a multi-vendor approach to SD-WAN for two main reasons. First, using different vendors helps provide access to specialized capabilities that meet specific requirements. For example, office campus networks and retail networks may use different vendors and specialized hardware in order to fulfill their unique needs for bandwidth and security. Second, within large organizations, multiple business units may have distinct technology strategies, which also results in the adoption of multiple vendors.

    When it comes to managing technologies from multiple SD-WAN vendors, a best practice is to establish holistic network observability. Each vendor typically has its proprietary protocols, management interfaces, and feature sets, making it challenging to achieve seamless interoperability and consistent network policies across the entire network. Incorporating monitoring of different SD-WAN vendors into unified network management workflows is a must to reduce silos, optimize post-deployment operations, and ensure robust infrastructure monitoring.

    2. Streamlined operational workflows

    Traditional network management has always been highly manual in nature, requiring skilled engineers who can perform management tasks using a command line interface or proprietary tools. With fewer personnel available and infrastructures experiencing constant growth and flux, there are not enough experts to efficiently manage and troubleshoot configurations and issues. This leaves organizations exposed to the increased risk of operational disruptions. As a result, in the average IT organization, end users still detect and report more than one-third of all service problems before network operations teams are aware of them.

    Front-tier operators often lack the insights they need, which means scarce, highly paid SD-WAN experts are routinely brought in to triage issues. With lengthier troubleshooting efforts and proliferating costs, network teams are constantly wading through overwhelming numbers of tickets and are left reacting to issues rather than managing service levels proactively. To overcome these limitations and successfully manage SD-WAN, the network operations center (NOC) needs correlated intelligence and effective baselines, so they can distinguish between optimal and suboptimal performance without systematically escalating to a specialist or an architect.

    3. Unbiased deployment validation

    Legacy, private multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) connectivity is costly and so increasingly being replaced by cheaper public internet connections. However, the internet is a diverse and unpredictable transport mechanism, which makes branch users vulnerable to latency and other routing issues that degrade the quality of the experience. Network teams are still over-dependent on end users to detect application issues at remote locations and are often the first to be blamed when there is a drop in performance. When users complain, network teams have no way to determine whether it’s a legitimate complaint and, if so, what changes may be responsible for the issue.

    SD-WAN deployment validation must involve testing and monitoring to ensure that the infrastructure meets the expected criteria for end-user satisfaction. This includes evaluating application response times, latency, and overall network performance under various conditions. By closely examining the end-user experience during validation, organizations can confirm that the SD-WAN effectively prioritizes and delivers critical applications. A comprehensive validation process considers both technical metrics and real-world user interactions. This helps ensure that the SD-WAN deployment aligns with business objectives and provides the intended benefits in terms of performance and user satisfaction.

    Drawing it all together

    Networks continue to evolve, and the Internet is now effectively the new enterprise network. In this new paradigm, network teams are responsible for services they have less and less control over. Native SD-WAN monitoring tools fill some basic needs but leave significant gaps in visibility, lacking coverage of multi-vendor networks and end-user experience. By gaining insights into end-to-end network delivery, network teams can be better equipped to validate and operationalize SD-WAN deployments. As a result, these organizations can dramatically increase their chances of successfully deploying and fully leveraging the significant benefits of SD-WAN.

    Every day, Broadcom helps IT organizations navigate their journey through network transformation. Explore strategies to reduce the complexity of managing SD-WAN environments by reading our complimentary white paper.

    Tag(s): NetOps , DX NetOps , AppNeta

    Yann Guernion

    Yann has several decades of experience in the software industry, from development to operations to marketing of enterprise solutions. He helps Broadcom deliver market-leading solutions with a focus on Network Management.

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