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The power of SD-WAN

Published: 24 July 2020

Written by Martin Saunders

SD-WAN is an important part of future networks and one that the channel will need to understand and embrace as the market develops. And with nearly every business now relying on voice and video calling over the internet, the network has become increasingly vital.

SD-WAN is an opportunity for the channel to improve visibility as well as enhance and prioritise cloud applications, because better visibility helps them to deliver a better service, and reassure their customers. But it needs to be managed effectively if they are to deliver the services that customers expect.

At present, there are too many vendors which is causing confusion. In addition, there is a lot of SD-WAN washing, where companies are adding SD-WAN labels to their product portfolios with few, if any, tangible capabilities.

The new homeworking market

SD-WAN becomes particularly interesting when dealing with homeworkers. In theory, the home working environment is a good use of this technology. You have a clever central controller that makes rolling out the technology easy, and a box can be installed at the home of each member of staff. The box connects to the home network, sets itself up and has the potential to add a 4G cellular backup to the primary broadband connection to counter any network issues.

The multitude of SD-WAN vendors are now racing each other to configure their services for these new and largely untested home settings.

For channel partners, multiple home environments will require a new approach, with the ability to connect SD-WAN boxes to a wide range of Broadband and WiFi networks. The cellular side is also likely to be tricky. Most partners are experienced in cellular data within an office location but will now have to sharpen their knowledge about the best network signals for each home location, supported by the possible installation of window-based antennas.

In addition, enterprises managing their home workers are dictating which SD-WAN solution a provider should use, which can lead to the provider having to support more than one system. Unfortunately, SD-WAN portals are focused only on the vendor’s own technology with no option to incorporate other vendors, leaving the provider with multiple tools to support their customers. Jumping from one SD-WAN portal to another is not sustainable when servicing multiple customers, so providers will need to standardise on a single management system that can scale to achieve an operational view.

Most importantly, providers need to be confident that the underlying network to the SD-WAN and their collaboration tools is working effectively. Having clear network visibility and smarter automation is vital in order to flag up issues as they are occurring, with customisable maintenance alerts across all networks and applications. All these elements are vital within the architecture of the system.

The focus for the channel should not be about the technology, but rather building their understanding about the specific needs of each customer and delivering the most suitable services.

Homeworking is perfect fit for SD-WAN and we will be watching carefully as vendors race to get their services fit for this new distributed work force.

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As featured in Comms Business on 1 July 2020

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