Connectivity as a Service Explained ~ MCaaS vs. SD-WAN
SD-WAN, or Software-Defined Wide Area Network, uses new SDN technology to connect organizations’ networks – everything from retail locations to data centers, and beyond. Its ability to provide active-active failover is a huge draw to many organizations, as it provides arguably the first true zero-downtime WAN solution. There is no doubt that SD-WAN will become a more prevalent solution in the years to come, but the question now: what is the best way to go about implementing it for your organization?
The market already seems saturated with SD-WAN vendors, each offering their own unique spin on this new technology, so how are you to know which one will implement the solution that works for your organization? As with any new IT project, the correct solution must be exhaustively vetted to ensure that any investment, both monetary and resource-specific, is well spent.
Where do we start?
- Does your organization have networking hardware that is near end of life and needs to be swapped out, or did you just purchase shiny new Ciscos last year that you are unable to rip and replace?
- What type of traffic needs to be prioritized over your networks in order to make operations run smoothly at all of your locations?
- Do you currently have MPLS at your branch locations?
- Do you currently have multiple circuits at each location so the SD-WAN solution will thrive and benefit your organization at its maximum potential?
These are just a handful of the exhaustive list of questions that go along with implementing an SD-WAN solution.
What happens if I do it myself?
Billing challenges go hand in hand with any new initiative. How are we going to pay for it? What monthly recurring cost are we looking at? What about upfront costs? How many different vendors are we going to have to manage? A typical SD-WAN solution calls for dual, diverse circuits. This means bills from two different Internet service providers. In addition to that, billing for the SD-WAN vendor itself will have to be taken into account. And that's just for one location! If your organization is multi-site, this can get messy very quickly. Especially when you think about how geography will affect what carrier is providing the dual circuits – it will rarely be the same two providers across an entire network. So best case scenario, you're looking at bills from 6-8 separate vendors, multiplied by the number of sites you have. It's headache-inducing just thinking about it!
Complimentary SD-WAN Solution Guide
(featuring Bigleaf & VeloCloud)
As we talked about previously, SD-WAN is a relatively new solution. So who's to say that you are actually implementing the solution needed for your organization? There are countless SD-WAN vendors out there, each promising to deliver exactly what you need, only to fall short when it comes to implementation. What if you're interested in provisioning a tertiary circuit at your branch locations for extended assurance that zero downtime is experienced? Often, organizations will implement a cellular option here. Can your SD-WAN vendor provide active-passive failover to ensure that data limits aren't hit on those LTE devices? SD-WAN is simple in its purpose but complicated in its implementation, and there are countless variables that not every single vendor will be able to take into account.
Preparing Your Network
So you've decided to proceed with an SD-WAN solution. But wait – your MPLS provider has you locked into another 3-year contract. Or your T1 provider has you on the hook for another 18 months because the fine print stated something about auto-renew and needing 30 days' notice to actually end the contract. So does this mean the project needs to be scrapped? Absolutely, if the SD-WAN vendor you've chosen is unable to work with an MPLS or a T1. Or what if you have shiny new Ciscos that you really don't want to get rid of, but your SD-WAN vendor has a firewall built in. Double NAT'ing? No way! Project canceled.
Ordering and Sourcing the Correct Circuits
So we've come to terms with the billing, prepped the network, and have a semi-grasp on how SD-WAN is implemented. Whew! Now it's time to order the circuits... so how does that work? Well you probably have a relationship with CenturyLink or AT&T due to your MPLS account. That's great! …until you realize that AT&T and CenturyLink aren't nationwide, or sometimes even region wide providers. Sure, you could use them to source dedicated Fiber circuits. The challenge with this, though, is that they would have to rent infrastructure from the actual provider in those areas where they don't have a backbone, so the cost will go way up. Since cost savings is a huge selling point of SD-WAN, this probably isn't an option. So what needs to be done then? Remember when you moved into your house and had to order Internet service? How you had to call the toll free number and sit on hold for thirty minutes until someone at a call center answered, and then they tried to sell you on a home security system when all you wanted was a TriplePlay package so you could surf the web and watch the game while talking to your mother in law on the phone, for relatively little money? That was fun, right? Well now you have to do that for each individual location. Happy calling!
Why it Sucks to Work with Carriers Part I & Part II
THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY!
Fear not! There IS a better way! Matrix Connectivity as a Service (MCaaS) is Matrix’s solution offering in the world of SD-WAN. Matrix offers a talented team of project managers who will completely own the deployment process from ordering to supporting the solution we design for you.
In this offering, Matrix will source the necessary ISP circuits as well as the appropriate SD-WAN solution. On top of that, all billing is filtered through Matrix Networks, so your entire network will appear on one invoice from us directly. Since we manage the circuits, we are able to provide proactive monitoring support on your behalf. We will know that a location is experiencing a down event before you do and take immediate steps to troubleshoot the issue to get you back up and running. In the meantime, the redundant circuit that we have provisioned will seamlessly take over, allowing your organization to function normally while we work to resolve any problems.
It all starts with a handoff between your account manager and the assigned project manager. Before we even bring you into the conversation, your project manager is completely up to speed on the scope of the project and what needs to be accomplished. Once that handoff has taken place, we have a kickoff/introductory call with you and your team to answer the questions posed at the start of this post. This way, you only have to have one conversation regarding your networking initiatives, instead of retelling your story to multiple vendors who, more often than not, are not in direct communication with each other. Not only that, you are allowing the experts at Matrix to completely customize and design a solution that works for your organization, instead of getting crammed into a ready-made box, as is often the case with ISP's or other vendors.
It will take some time for the SD-WAN field to shake out and allow for the cream to rise. You could wait to see who emerges as the proven providers, or you could begin to save money and enhance your redundancy today with MCaaS.
Check out our Collection of SD-WAN & Networking Education
SD-WAN Bill of Rights!
Author: Madden Revell