by Tanya Seda, Chief Strategy Officer
As attractive as SD-WAN is, how does an enterprise begin to test it as a suitable network for their business? As with most technology decisions, this is not always simple. Vendors today have a range of options and features available and it takes time and experience to decide what’s right. Some of the most important things to test for are failover, application performance, usability, and scalability. Of those, performance testing is not a big part of the SD-WAN node evaluation but assessing it helps validate that it meets your network’s unique needs.
Let’s look at some other factors you do want to take the time to assess:
Ease of Usability
The ability for network engineers to test usability of each solution is important. This helps you choose and set the parameters which optimize the solution’s performance in your specific situation.
Running tests that cut across all products in your network is very important. Some key tasks to look at are:
Perform these tasks across all vendors, ideally in a multi-site deployment to be sure it all works together.
SD-WAN solutions have many failover options in case of a circuit outage. Most outages are dynamic, consisting of intermittent pauses that lead to packet drops. SD-WAN products have different ways to handle these network hiccups and failures. There are methods and tools to determine how the SD-WAN fails over by recreating small outages with a range of packet loss rates and periods of excessive congestion. Identifying a WAN emulator is an important tool for measuring the results and ensure they fall within the range of your needs.
If you have a larger network scalability is critical to confirm. Be sure to ask up front if you will need a full mesh network or if it uses hub-and-spoke technology. In the case of a full mesh network it will require tunnels between all locations. You’ll also want to know what it does to memory and processing on the edge nodes. This will mean that you will require management tools for deploying, configuring and managing those tunnels.
Hub-and-spoke designs require less resources and force traffic through a central hub. On the plus size, SD-WAN services are designed to help avoid the trade-offs by maintaining the mesh in the cloud. This technique is done by freeing the edge nodes from needing the compute and memory resource. You’ll still want to look at large scale management and configuration tools, but you won’t have the same memory challenges.
Network security involves traffic encryption and node authentication for all data that is traversing the network. Network engineers start testing methods by using an evaluation of unused ports and communications flows, looking for vulnerabilities. Best practice indicates that passwords need to be checked for vulnerabilities and changed if necessary. Monitoring system behavior should also be done to catch any abnormalities that could make the network vulnerable to attacks. It is important to check whether or not the SD-WAN provider uses partners for security. If they do, evaluate the partner to ensue ease of deployment and management.
SD-WAN offers many advantages over older technologies, and is well worth investigating. With care and attention in the evaluation and decision-making processes you’ll wind up with the system, performance and value you need for your business.