By Tanya Seda

Happy New Year, everyone!  In my first blog of the new year, I want to pick back up on the topic of migrating your network to an SD-WAN-based one.  We’ve been tracking the markets growing interest in SD-WAN, and we are working with many of our customers across all design faucets.  Like most things in life, however, what looks straightforward on the surface can mask “gotchas” underneath.

The new design output is virtually the reverse of MPLS.  When our enterprise customers make their move to cloud services, mobile workforces and  network virtualization we also advise of the need for greater bandwidth to support these workflows. Software Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) is a great solution for many applications.  However, like with any new technologies it is not a one stop fix solution and can inherently come with some complications.

Let’s take a minute to review the benefits of SD-WAN.  It offers many advantages; including flexibility and speed at a lower cost than traditional multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) networks. Another benefit is that SD-WAN solutions are carrier- and transport-agnostic, meaning that more expensive legacy networks can be replaced with what should be more cost-effective connections. However, because of the design change the decentralized network is causing new and unexpected expense challenges.

Today, typical MPLS legacy networks will not go away completely any time soon. On the business side of the house, the contracts for MPLS networks are multi-year and quality of service (QoS) / class of service (CoS) options currently seen in MPLS T&Cs may not be available in an SD-WAN solutions today. The enterprise has to be pro-active in managing the contract inventory to capture expiring MPLS to upgrade to SD-WAN will occur as agreements term out.   We are seeing most enterprises fall into the hybrid model mentioned above.

Another challenge for SD-WAN solutions is that it adds another level of complex billing and support  as access through SD- WAN applications operate in a carrier agnostic network scenario. This is a very different model than the single carrier model that MPLS typically has in place in billing structures currently. It is very important to get all the puzzle pieces correct in order for best in class management of this new technology.

Here is where your TEM provider comes in to save the day!  Let’s take a look at the OPEX (operating expense) and management challenges that might occur with this new technology.  Currently, an enterprise with traditional MPLS networks typically buys bandwidth through one service provider. With SD-WAN, enterprises will need to have direct relationships many regional and international service providers. In order to capture the contracts ROI, the legacy network with a single carrier 500 site MPLS network migration to SD-WAN could create 50+ new relationships with new service providers. With each  new engagement, every service provider requires their own proposals, contracts, terms and pricing. Take this a step further and when there is a circuit issue and a trouble ticket opened it’s much more challenging to know who to contact and have the appropriate information available unless all the details are accurately stored and easy to obtain. A TEM is your storage facility for all this information.

When put to the test, trying to find and identifying the specific circuit ID, service provider, and account information to report an issue is a challenge for most folks.. Then add in the additional layer of managing multiple contracts and multiple invoices, this task is even more difficult. This is where having a TEM provider can be of considerable value.  A TEM provider can help you obtain the accounts, service providers, contracts and billing needed to fulfill any task the enterprise needs.