When enterprises began to invest more in the cloud and faced networking challenges related to handling heavy bandwidth demands and increased complexity, software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) provided the remedy. While there were SD-WAN challenges, it alleviated some difficulties and provided a higher level of control to network engineers.
The Benefits of SD-WAN: Before diving into the persisting challenges, it’s important to recognize the contribution that SD-WAN has made to organizations pursuing complex digital transformation strategies. From offering cheaper alternatives to multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) lines to centralized management, SD-WAN brought beneficial features in addition to scalability, agility, and traffic routing and segmentation.
Many enterprises appreciate the ability to configure and troubleshoot network connections for geographically dispersed branch locations without having to physically travel to the location. The SD-WAN device can be shipped to the location, where simply plugging it in allows it to connect to the network.
Even with these advantages, there are some aspects of SD-WAN that remain challenging for enterprises:
Challenge: Centralized Monitoring Interrupted by Split Tunneling
SD-WAN uses a split tunnel, in which a remote site enjoys a direct connection to the internet via broadband, as well as a private connection for intranet. The private connection between the branch router and the data center is accomplished through a virtual private network (VPN) tunnel or using an MPLS connection. Because of this, network monitoring tools at the data center can’t detect any performance issues that users at a branch location or other remote site might be experiencing.
Challenge: Engineers Unable to Measure End-User Experiences
The routers for SD-WAN utilize passive application performance monitoring for applications coming over the network. They prioritize data based on business policy that accommodates the critical level of different transmissions and optimizes routing decisions. While this approach allows the SD-WAN router to make decisions, it doesn’t necessarily capture the end-user experience from the application perspective. SD-WAN is missing end-to-end monitoring that measures metrics like packet loss, HTTP loading time, and latency, which makes it challenging to determine whether service level agreements are being met.
Challenge: Difficulty in Troubleshooting Performance Problems
If a manager at a branch location contacts network engineers about a slow connection, network engineers may find it difficult to know where to begin. Many factors could be involved, such as the WiFi network, the appliance configuration for SD-WAN, the local area network (LAN) or the internet links. While engineers receive analytics about traffic flows on their interfaces, they only ever see one side of the equation.
The Solution to These SD-WAN Challenges? Providers need to begin offering active and distributed monitoring so that connectivity and performance issues can be detected for troubleshooting. Diligent monitoring tools become more critical as enterprises expand beyond branch locations to offer broad mobility programs and internet of things (IoT) devices.
SD-WAN challenges remain, but solutions are still evolving to meet the needs of enterprise IT in the cloud era. Contact us at eXemplify to learn more about choosing the right SD-WAN solution.