Every IT manager knows that it’s a huge hassle managing a large stack of network equipment at every branch office. Nemertes’ 2018-19 WAN Economics and Technologies research study shows that those deploying SD-WAN are very interested in breaking down the branch technology stack.
- 77% are interested in replacing some or all branch firewall programs
- 78% are interested in replacing some or all branch routers with SD-WAN solutions
- 82% plan to replace some or all branch WAN optimizers
There are benefits to breaking down the WAN stack, however, it is not ensured unless one uses an all-opex model. The all-opex model could be box-based DIY or an in-net/managed remedy The higher performance you expect from a single box, the more robust it needs to be, and one expensive box can end up costing more than three fairly inexpensive ones. In the long run, the operational advantages of collapsing the stack will include smaller product and vendor pool, reduced time training staff, as well as simpler IT management processes.
Decreasing the number of vendors and products that must be managed over the lifecycle of the device-layers will yield IT benefits. A single partnership simplifies vendor relationships and reduces costs. There will be fewer supply agreements to manage. In addition, it will reduce the time and resources needed to work with various technical support teams and the hassle that comes with restructurings, acquisitions, divestitures of products, or staff turnover.
The fewer solutions, the lower the number of technical skill sets needed to keep the WAN running. There are some cases when technologies converge and there is little or no financial savings because management interfaces don’t converge. But, when converged solutions include converged management tools and also a unified user interface, life improves for WAN engineers. When engineers are only required to know one or two user interfaces, it is less complicated for every team member to understand them, and to provide successful cross-coverage. When a staff member is unavailable, the danger of an essential capability being lost is minimized.
One of the biggest impacts on IT is that operations are simplified. When one solution can replace the router, firewall, and WAN optimizer, implementation becomes simpler. In addition, there is a reduced need to do network functional regression screening. IT no longer needs to stress about how modifications to one platform in the stack will have unforeseeable effects on other boxes in the stack. The need to ensure one change will not result in a cascade of failures in other systems. This is what drives many businesses to avoid making any changes on the WAN.
Improved security should be a motivation to simplify the WAN. Many times networks have branch router operating systems that are left unpatched for extended periods of time because IT is unwilling to take the chance of breaking them in order to push out patches, including security patches.
Although it is a valid point that the SD-WAN appliance poses a risk as a single point of failure when it encompasses the entire stack, bear in mind that when several devices are stacked up in the traffic path, failure in any one of them can destroy the WAN. A single point of failure is advantageous over three failures at the same location. Also, consider that it is easier to engineer high availability for a single platform.
And, certainly, if the endpoint is primarily a means of connecting the branch location to an in-net solution, redundancy at the endpoint is even much easier. Whether IT is engineering the network itself or depending on the engineering of an outside provider, it’s a winning solution for the entire organization.
Author | Emily Forbes
An Entrepreneur, Mother & A passionate tech writer in the technology industry!