Enterprise adoption of SD-WAN services is booming, with analysts estimating mult-billion-dollar levels of service and equipment revenues generated by the space over the next several years. However, management of such deployments across global enterprises remains a fiscal and operational challenge.
This has led many to rely on managed platforms through either a systems integrator, a telecom operator, or through a specific vendor. But some large companies are looking to take on the deployment and management themselves despite significant challenges.
John Isch, who is a practice director at Orange Business Services, said that three of the biggest challenges he has seen in terms of large-scale, international SD-WAN deployments are around management of internet service providers (ISPs), peering inside and outside of regions, and the unique case of China. He said these issues can delay deployments, result in inferior service quality, and make it difficult to reach return on investment (ROI) goals.
“For SD-WAN, the main driver is about getting internet into the enterprise and taking out expensive MPLS and replacing it with cheap internet,” Isch said. “For a domestic environment, that can be a pretty easy line to draw. But it’s more complicated when you look internationally.”
Isch explained that the first big challenge is finding an ISP that can handle international locations. There are thousands of local ISPs around the world, but stitching together a quilt of coverage of reliable service is a tall task.
“If I have 100 locations globally and I want to put internet at all 100 locations, you need to figure out how to do that,” Isch said. “Will I need to have 100 separate ISP contracts globally? If so, that becomes very cumbersome very quickly, and you end up in a contract management zone at that point.”
This management challenge also includes dealing with monitoring, maintenance, and incident management across different ISPs.
Isch said this challenge alone is probably enough to sway an enterprise toward a managed service platform. “It’s something a company can do, but it’s often a much bigger project than they expect,” he said.
Another big challenge for global enterprises is dealing with different internet performance characteristics across borders. Isch explained that domestic services are usually consistent because most peering paths are well known and “don’t change that much.”
“That can be completely different in an international deployment when you are going country to country,” Isch said. He cited Latin America as an example where many of the countries actually have their peering linked back to the U.S. before being transmitted back to a neighboring country in Latin America.
“That can add a layer of latency that might impact a local or regional SD-WAN deployment,” Isch said. He noted that enterprises dealing with this challenge should look for ISPs that don’t have long round-trip delays.
Great Firewall of China
And then of course there is the issue with China, or as Isch called it: “the great firewall of China.”
“If you are going to take a path from inside the country to outside the country, you are going to have to go through that firewall and your performance is probably going to suffer,” he said.
He noted that one way around that challenge is to create an overlay network that exists only in China and then use an MPLS connection to get traffic out of the country. “That way you are not suffering in that environment,” he said. However, since it’s not officially recognized by the government, “if you have a problem you can’t go to the government and say you have a problem,” he added.