The SD-WAN band wagon has already left the station. It not quite up to full speed yet but there’s no doubt it’s picking up speed nicely, which is all the more impressive when you see how many vendors are desperately trying to jump aboard.
Everyone has something to say about SD-WAN, and most people seem to be saying that they sell it, even if all their previous marketing would have you believe they were leased line vendors, or VoIP vendors, or MPLS vendors.
So, something about their offering must have changed, surely? Well, not necessarily. SD-WAN sounds cool, you see. Gartner, and most industry analysts, think it’s going to be the next big thing. We’re certainly selling SD-WANs right now and the rate of SD-WAN enquiries we are receiving is increasing. To switch metaphor quickly, the wave is beginning to form, and the industry establishment are collectively running for their surf boards.
As ever with “new tech” there is no predefined and agreed definition of SD-WAN, or what makes a network/connection/WAN “Software Defined”. There are some generally accepted concepts however, which I think most people are now generally aware of.
So, why did I see a large teleco marketing their leased lines as “software defined” on Linked In last month? What on earth is it about a leased line that means it can be labelled “SD-WAN”? Perhaps they mean that a network of leased lines can be used to link up a few offices. Yes they can, they’ll sell you a thing called MPLS – but, in case you haven’t heard, it’s dead!
There is a real danger here. The corporate benefit to the ISP of all this SD-WANishness is to sell more leased lines, and to make more money. Now I’m all for businesses making more money, I’m a capitalist, but when the price to the end user rises and the quality of the product goes down, that damages my industry. And, quite frankly, the ISP industry needs all the help it can get, reputation wise!
An ISP investing in SD-WAN marketing alone, rather than in the core networking or (God forbid) in the SOFTWARE never mind the CPE required to deliver true SD-WAN benefit to the end user runs the risk of permanently damaging the name SD-WAN for the people who are out there actually doing it.
There is a historical precedent here. Bonded ADSL was badly implemented 12 years ago by the likes of Managed Communications, Xrio and Murphx. The damage to a good idea was done by over ambitious marketing, bad networks, worse software and poor implementation.
SD-WAN has massive potential, but it needs to be implemented properly, carefully, and with integrity. Calling something SD-WAN when it isn’t won’t help anyone, it will just lead to unhappy customers and a missed opportunity.
So my message to businesses looking to move to SD-WAN is, “it really could help you, but beware the band wagon”. If all you end up with is a rebadged MPLS then you’re missing out on all the benefits of resilience, flexibility and intelligence offered by a true SD-WAN.