If you were to succinctly sum up three years’ worth of conversations that have driven network innovation, it might go something like this:
Oh no, how do we pivot to working from home? (2020)
We can’t seem to stop saying “the future of work is hybrid” (2021)
Goodbye MPLS, hello SD-WAN! (2022)
Network transformation aspirations that otherwise might’ve remained stagnant sans pandemic were given new life in the era of COVID and drove years’ worth of innovations in a condensed timeframe. In 2022 alone, global spending on digital transformation is forecast to hit $1.8 trillion, a 17.6% increase from 2021, and 53% of enterprises report having a digital transformation strategy – an increase of 42% in two short years. Supporting this digital revolution are reliable, resilient networks that can keep pace with accelerated cloud adoption and general digital transformation trends.
If you haven’t already, it’s only a matter of time before your organization will need to evaluate its network architecture or make further upgrades to fuel your organization’s digital transformation goals.
Whether your organization is hoping to achieve enhanced cloud adoption, increased capacity, simplified network management, true redundancy, tighter security, scalable bandwidth, or a better holistic network solution, knowing what steps to take before you engage an SD-WAN or global WAN vendor is crucial.
Let’s explore three key questions you should ask yourself before sourcing an SD-WAN or global WAN solution.
1. Have You Evaluated Your Minimum Requirements?
You’ve likely encountered people in life – a lackadaisical coworker perhaps – that seem to scrape by doing the bare minimum. Similarly, the new network should meet the core functionality and performance levels of your current WAN. Including interoperability with existing WAN/LAN hardware, application workflows, routing protocols, throughput capacity, security policies, connectivity types, and more.
Questions to ask when evaluating your minimum requirements include:
What services will need to be replaced (firewall, routers, etc.)?
Do I need to change the current network topology to support future technology advancements?
Lean on reports and other data to inventory and analyze your current environment. Conducting a full assessment of the network topology, workload, utilization, and traffic patterns is the best way to understand the gaps and strengths of your current infrastructure. As part of this process, take into consideration the organizations’ cloud strategy including any onsite data centers and private or public clouds and how you access them.
2. Have you nailed down the project scope?
Go beyond “I want to upgrade my network” and put some true parameters around your goals and scope. There are hundreds of SD-WAN providers, technologies, and deployment models in the market today and it’s easy to get lost in the hype. We have over 60 in our portfolio alone! Before drowning, trim down the pool of options by determining a few key scoping questions.
Who’s going to own, deploy and manage the hardware?
What type of connectivity will the devices need to support?
Do I need a firewall component as a part of the solution?
Timeline-wise, look three or more years ahead (or however long your contract will last, plus a few years). Considering how your WAN solution fits with future service upgrades (including how pending mergers and acquisitions will affect your operations and if your staff will embrace hybrid work for the foreseeable future) will allow you to “measure twice and cut once, “as the saying goes. There’s nothing worse than coming to the end of a contract only to find yourself needing to start the process over, In the end, thoughtful planning will save not only time, but your other most precious commodity: money.
Above all else, being realistic about organizations’ project appetite and resource availability is crucial at this stage. For example, if you’re on MPLS today, a move to SD-WAN will likely entail installing new circuits – which could lead to lengthy construction if you’re limited to one carrier today. Think of the time and resources required!
As we’ll touch on later in this blog, leaning on a network service solutions partner can be your best bet to avoiding decision fatigue, as well as saving money and any time lost on day-to-day productivity in the long term.
3. Have You Compiled a List of Vendor Questions?
Perhaps the most challenging of the steps, compiling a list of vendor questions will help you put vendors’ feet to the fire as you try to line up your needs to the numerous options available to ensure your prospective vendors match your intent.
If you’ve determined that the new provider does have the technology in place to support your minimum requirements, a final question to ask is: where are they spending money? If they’re spending money and time on the tech you’re most interested in deploying, that’s a good indication you’ve met your match with a provider committed to the technology that’s most important to you. Or you could end up in the situation some Sprint customers currently find themselves in as the company moves to no longer support wireline services.
There’s also the nitty-gritty to consider like what add-ons are offered with the solution, security and compliance needs, deployment strategies, how the upgrades will sit with your current architecture, CapEx and OpEx costs, and more.
For many organizations, the simplest answer at this stage is to engage a solutions provider who understands your parameters, has done the market research, and understands the tech provider landscape.
A solutions partner, like WX Technology Group, can take the hard work of matching your needs to the right vendor to save you time, while also potentially uncovering cost savings in the process. With the right support, you’ll be able to confidently move forward with the right SD-WAN or global WAN solution.
If you’re ready to get going on your network transformation project, contact WXTG today to get started.