SD-WAN – modernise or paralyse? Things to consider before taking the plunge

Hein Witte Specialised Sales Executive Telecommunications at T-Systems South Africa
Hein Witte Specialised Sales Executive Telecommunications at T-Systems South Africa

Some of the results that you want to achieve with SD-WAN are cost containment, increased capacity, enhanced security and improved user experiences. In addition, corporates also want to put themselves in a position to leverage cloud and other digital platforms.

The big perception is that SD-WAN is a silver bullet with plug and play capabilities and that its deployment almost borders on DIY. However, it’s not that simple.

SD-WAN is an intelligent technology that requires expert design and must be implemented with great understanding of the business imperatives for it to deliver the profound desired outcomes. An improper deployment would not only see the network delivering limited benefits, it could drive an organisation to the point of paralysis.

To avoid these pitfalls, organisations must work with an expert implementation partner that has the necessary skills, experience and resources to do the implementation.

Select a partner and let them do the expert work and ensure that SD-WAN delivers. Do not attempt a simplistic DIY approach that could easily lead to an investment that’s not providing what it was intended to.In addition, companies must keep in mind that there are several unique conditions in South Africa that must be considered before implementing SD-WAN.

Top of mind should be South Africa’s ongoing load shedding, which impacts the telecoms grid severely. One of the design principles of SD-WAN is that it needs multiple paths so it can select the best route between service provider and receiver.

When the grid is congested and the SD-WAN router only has one path to go through, the user experience is impaired severely. This must be considered when the network is designed to ensure it has alternative routes, including such route options which are not impacted by load shedding.

Another challenge is South Africa’s contracting economy, which is pushing corporates into deploying SD-WAN as quickly as possible to leverage potential cost reductions. The danger is that rushed implementation and shortcuts can result in a paralysed network.

On the other hand, if implemented properly, SD-WAN has built in self-healing capabilities, as well as a backdoor entrance that allows for faults to be addressed remotely, via a sophisticated management platform. This allows for person-to-person contact to be avoided, which is critical during the current pandemic.

Another benefit of SD-WAN is in the area of compliance and security. Traditional corporate networks are excluded and isolated from compliance and, therefore, prone to compliance breaches. SD-WAN fabric brings about the benefit of compliance being embedded in the network, if it is set up and configured properly.

Similarly, security in a traditional network was also peripheral, but SD-WAN includes next-generation firewall capabilities compatible with the corporate policies of a customer.

By Hein Witte, Specialised Sales Executive: Telecommunications, at T-Systems South Africa.