SD-WAN isn’t Just Another WAN

July 16th, 2018 by · Leave a Comment

This Industry Viewpoint was contributed by David W Wang

According to the market status of 1st half of 2018, while SD-WAN adoption by enterprises of all sizes and verticals is accelerating, there are some barriers along the road as well. When being introduced on SD-WAN, at the strategic level enterprises may have these three typical concerns or objections: First, our MPLS services are working fine and SD-WAN sounds like just another WAN option over the broadband Internet. We don’t have a big zeal for it.

Second, we can see from your presentation and demo that SD-WAN is fantastic technology and cost-saving. But it might add up complexity in our network management if we take on the MPLS and SD-WAN hybrid approach.  Also, our organizational structure and staff training are not ready yet for SD-WAN and we still face a learning curve.

Third, SD-WAN is good but we would wait for a while and see, because we are in a strategic juncture of putting all the puzzles together for the Digital Age, like what to do with cloud, security, mobility, big data, IoT, AI, etc.  We hesitate to just single SD-WAN adoption out at this point of time.

All interesting comments but they do come with misunderstanding or wrong perception on SD-WAN. By all means, I suggest enterprises think big on SD-WAN today, or you may lose big tomorrow. We can think big on SD-WAM from the following three perspectives.

First, SD-WAN is the main bloodline or central glue of the next-gen IT ecosystem, which will enable the so called “Digital Transformation” (DX) for the future enterprise world.  While nearly all the businesses today want to use cloud and mobility, add up security, and take advantage of big data, etc. it’s SD-WAN which connects all these new utilities and applications together. Or say without SD-WAN, the digital transformation can’t happen. Hence, it’s not a good strategy to postpone your engagement with SD-WAN.

Second, some may ask: can’t legacy services like MPLS or public Internet handle DX for us as well? And they provide good network services to us today. Well, MPLS and public Internet might support some basic digital services, but as things advance (e.g. needs for cloud direct access), legacy networks would turn out as being ineffective, long lead time, costly, unreliable, unscalable, and insecure.

More importantly, SD-WAN is not just another WAN, like in the past ATM & Frame Relay replacing Private Line, and then MPLS and Ethernet taking over ATM & Frame Relay. SD-WAN goes way beyond a sole network transmission solution and brings about a new digital service platform where you can scale and add on applications and solutions (e.g. enhanced firewall package and machine learning functions), and segment network operation as well as application performance.

Why can SD-WAN make a digital service platform while MPLS remains only a network transport solution? The key difference comes from that SD-WAN is powered by SDN & NFV that create a central and unified network controlling fabric and apply complex network functions virtually in a widely distributed manner. On the contrary, MPLS is mostly hardware centric network with fragmented control points that are difficult to monitor, upgrade and orchestrate.

This also leads to our third angle on SD-WAN: being software defined and system virtualized makes an intelligent next-gen network possible, in contrast to the dumb or semi-dumb legacy networks we may still use today.  An intelligent network includes two major features: the first is automation vs. a lot of work like network upgrade, new provisioning, trouble shooting, policy change and implementation that used to be handled and completed manually. Automation means flexibility, simplicity and high efficiency.

The second feature is by using cloud-based AI and machine learning functions, the next-gen network can process big data collected real time and quickly identify problem, fraud and security breach patterns, and then come up with the right responses and solutions, like securely routing and prioritizing mission critical applications.  Together with edge computing and modular data centers, the intelligent network can serve well enterprises either connecting people or things towards the Digital Age.

In summary, once we get out of the box perceiving SD-WAN only as another WAN, it will open the holistic new view with SD-WAN as the key entry platform and enabler for DX. If realizing the future IT ecosystem will mostly be about SDx, e.g. SD-WAN, SD-DC. SD-Storage, SD-IoT, etc., then it makes great sense for enterprises to start off this exciting journey by adopting SD-WAN solutions now.

David W Wang is a telecom/IT business development principal and senior consultant with ITCom Global, LLC based in Washington DC metro. Mr. Wang is also the author of the new book “Software Defined-WAN for the Digital Age” , and the 2015 publishing “Cash In On Cloud Computing”, and he can be contacted at

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Categories: Industry Viewpoint · SDN

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