Author: John Burke, CIO & Principal Research Analyst
IT and the enterprise need the network to be delivered like a service and managed accordingly—to create a Network as a Service (NaaS) model. This means having some kind of clear Service Level Agreement (SLA) to define what services will be delivered and how delivery will be measured. Yet, many organizations have no useful SLA on the network, especially the wide-area network, nor the ability to define and manage to one. The biggest obstacle to meaningful SLAs and to a NaaS model broadly is the way most legacy WAN management focuses on the wrong things. Where they exist, network SLAs are usually about device uptime and link performance. It’s no surprise they focus on the low-level details in this way: network engineers tend to work manually, site by site and component by component, rather than holistically.
SD-WAN addresses these shortcomings. In addition to sharply reducing the number of outages in WAN sites, and reducing the cost of expanded capacity, they provide highly automated, centralized management for both links and devices, and simplify creation and tracking of real, business-meaningful SLAs. That’s a huge step towards delivering NaaS, but it is only part of the picture: “XaaS” implies getting capacity on demand, and abstraction of supplier relationship details. SD-WAN doesn’t solve these problems. In fact, SD-WAN can increase the burden of relationship management! With SD-WAN, IT has means and incentive to use more and more last- mile providers, forcing the organization to monitor and manage that many more contracts and bills, and to develop and maintain a working support relationship with each. And, to manage elasticity on its own, the enterprise must negotiate short- term/open-ended contracts, get the links provisioned quickly, and integrate links into the WAN transparently. SD-WAN technology only helps with that last part.
For NaaS to be a reality, then, someone else has to handle the details of those provider-facing relationships, both ongoing and transient, with SD-WAN as one part of the delivery infrastructure. IT leaders, WAN architects and engineers should:
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