SD-WAN brings the promise of greater resiliency and lower costs, but as with any new network technology it can leave NetOps teams in the dark as the company revises its strategy to monitor and manage the new networks.
While most SD-WAN vendors offer some form of monitoring with their services, John Smith, executive vice president and CTO at monitoring company LiveAction, said these often create more problems for enterprises. He noted that often these tools don’t hook into an enterprise’s day-to-day operations or provide the required visibility — often leaving SD-WAN devices as the least visible part of the network.
Adam Edwards, chief customer officer at AppNeta, put it this way: “SD-WAN vendors may include some simple bandwidth reporting. Don’t assume this replaces a comprehensive monitoring and diagnostics platform.” He added that integrated, active monitoring should be extended across the SD-WAN links to provide visibility at the endpoint.
Other monitoring challenges are that SD-WANs create virtual networks using a number of tunnels, which can restrict IT’s visibility into the networks; there is an increase in telemetry data that older monitoring tools are not equipped to handle; there are limited standards associated with exposing SD-WAN performance data; and enterprises have to deal with an overlay between different service providers if a company is using different providers at each remote site.
Implementing a new strategy, particularly one that prepares an enterprise for the future, will help the organization reap the benefits of the SD-WAN.
Brian Promes, vice president of product marketing at SevOne, noted the importance of considering how SD-WAN fits into the context of the entire network. “Don’t treat SD-WAN monitoring as a silo. It’s a piece of a larger puzzle,” he said.
Have a Plan
As networks continue to evolve toward greater software control customers must consider developing a monitoring plan that can adapt and scale to that evolution. Smith said this plan should include a monitoring service that will provide an end-to-end view and provide accountability with multi-vendor environments.
“Most enterprises are going to stick with one SD-WAN vendor, but as they automate different parts of the network it will probably be different vendors,” noted Smith, who added that he has spoken to customers that often have a hard time holding vendors accountable to fix network errors. Having a vendor-neutral performance management and development platform can identify the problem and fix the error quicker at the source of the problem.
According to AppNeta’s Edwards, an enterprises’ monitoring “should be able to provide context into actual performance — true speed and network capacity — to suss out issues they can solve and hold ISPs/third-party vendors to task when performance lags.”
Implementing an external monitoring service that can contextualize the SD-WAN within the network will allow for deeper analysis of the network data. These external services can provide log and flow analysis, deep packet inspection, or a combination to ensure that the network is operating properly.
“SD-WAN is in its early days still, but it’s gonna be big,” said Smith. “It’s just one step in the automation journey, but we’re going to come to all these fabrics connecting together and the end goal, I think for the customer, is they want to securely and quickly deploy applications.”