A successful SD-WAN deployment takes time. It would help if you prepared by aligning with your decision-makers and identifying who will design, procure, install, configure, monitor, and manage the solution over the long term.
Also, you should evaluate your transport underlays, as they impact application performance. This includes assessing ISP performance and validating your SD-WAN vendor’s policy routing capabilities.
Identify Your Needs
One of the most important steps is identifying and defining your desired end state. This will allow you to create clear and specific implementation goals to help your project stay on track.
Another key step is understanding your organization’s capabilities and appetite for SD-WAN. An accurate picture of the resources you will need to design, install, configure, and monitor your network. This will allow you to decide whether to deploy and manage the solution in-house or outsource it to a managed service provider.
If you plan on using SD-WAN solutions that offer zero-touch deployment (ZTP), it’s critical to plan for the storage space you will need to keep the hardware in stock until it can be shipped and installed at each site. This is especially true if you plan to ship and deploy the devices at a prioritized list of sites.
Plan Your Deployment
Once your solution has been selected, you must plan for the deployment. It’s not a switch-and-go activity; there are likely to be transitions at each site that need to be carefully managed to ensure that your users continue to work with the highest levels of reliability.
Start by evaluating your existing connections at each location. For each, identify the options and costs, if applicable, to understand what is available.
During this phase, it is critical to establish the right balance between IT resources and business needs for your SD-WAN implementation. You’ll need to consider how much staff, network, and IT skills will be required for the project and what other projects may be impacted.
It’s also important to establish a plan for staging and configuring your hardware, as some vendors have limited inventory. Ideally, you will have a designated location for receiving and staging all components to be configured, and this should always be a secure area. You’re ready to go live once everything is in place and tested.
Deploy the Hardware
Once you’ve finalized your plan, get hardware on order as soon as possible. Ideally, you’ll have a single destination identified for delivery of all hardware and a plan to ensure all components are received into a secure area ready to be physically set up and configured.
Depending on the locations involved, you should evaluate existing connectivity circuits at each location to fully understand the costs and reliability of your current network connections. This knowledge will help you determine how to deploy your SD-WAN best to optimize your bandwidth use, ensure the highest quality of service, and reduce cost by eliminating circuits that aren’t critical for daily operations.
Next, select an SD-WAN solution with a secure and easy-to-manage network appliance for each site. Look for one that offers configuration templates to simplify the deployment process, eliminate error-prone manual processes, and automate common network configurations – such as class of service (CoS) routing, IPv4/IPv6 mapping, and multisite service chains. This will improve productivity and ensure consistent network configurations across multiple sites.
Configure the Hardware
When you deploy SD-WAN, it’s critical to configure the hardware correctly. Otherwise, you’ll risk network downtime as your team switches from one hardware to another. To avoid downtime, ensure your SD-WAN provider has local feet on the ground worldwide to handle site installations and other hardware issues, no matter where offices are based.
An effective SD-WAN solution is a great way to improve performance, reliability, and scalability. It enables businesses to connect branches and remote locations to internal data centers and SaaS applications using a mix of connections, including MPLS, broadband internet, and LTE wireless.
To maximize the benefits of SD-WAN, choose a solution with a clear virtualization layer to separate hardware and VNFs, a wide selection of available VNFs, and true openness. These features will enable you to create device groups containing policies and configuration objects for your hubs and branches. They will also allow you to create Security policy rules that authorize traffic between the devices in each group. With a centralized control function and improved visibility, managing WAN infrastructure is easier than ever.
Monitor Your Network
Once you’ve implemented SD-WAN, you must monitor your network to ensure the new policies operate as designed and optimize performance continuously. Without this, your network will likely fail to deliver the ROI you’re counting on producing.
Evaluate the monitoring capabilities of your chosen product. Most products include a hands-on evaluation lab to test the product with your traffic and evaluate alerting and other configuration options before deploying on production networks. It would help if you also looked at how easy it is to set up zero-touch provisioning (ZTP) and the ability to connect to existing sites easily.
Once you’ve determined what the product of choice offers, work with your vendor to get the hardware on order. Be sure to have a staging and configuration location established and a plan to ensure that components are properly packaged and shipped to each of your locations. It’s important to complete this step as soon as possible because hardware inventory can be limited with vendors. Also, if necessary, you’ll need to establish a storage space for each site’s equipment.