Choosing Your SD-WAN Vendor: Key Factors to Consider

SD-WAN offers a superior networking solution to traditional networking. What to look for when comparing different vendors to ensure compliance with your requirements while optimizing cost.

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By Amir Zmora
Filip Dimkovski
Edited by Filip Dimkovski

Published June 16, 2024.

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As businesses expand and adopt cloud networking technologies, the limitations of conventional networks become apparent. These traditional systems can be rigid, difficult to scale, and expensive to maintain, especially when dealing with multiple geographical locations and the ever-growing demand for bandwidth and faster connectivity.

Enter SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network), a technology poised to transform how enterprises connect branches, data centers, and the cloud. SD-WAN promises various benefits over traditional networking, but no two SD-WAN vendors are the same and should be carefully evaluated beforehand.

Common Challenges With Traditional Networking Solutions

Traditional networking architectures have served well in the past, but as enterprises move to a cloud-first IT strategy where applications are consumed from the cloud and remote work is the new norm, networks must adapt. This digital transformation introduces several challenges, among them:

  • Increased bandwidth requirements: As applications are consumed from private and public clouds, networks need to handle growing bandwidth requirements and enterprise-grade connectivity to unmanaged destinations where dedicated lines such as MPLS are not possible.
  • Connectivity to public clouds and SaaS applications becomes mission-critical: This requires utilizing multiple network connections and deploying algorithms that offer QoS, application prioritization, quality-based routing, and dynamic path selection.
  • Network agility: As connectivity requirements and applications used by the enterprise rapidly change, networks must become software-defined and centrally managed to allow for easy and timely configuration changes.
  • Scalability issues: Traditional networks are not only hardware-intensive but also require significant manual configuration, making scaling a time-consuming and costly endeavor.
  • Complex maintenance: Traditional networks require constant maintenance and management from specialized IT personnel to ensure everything continues running smoothly.
  • Vendor lock-in: Enterprises often find themselves tethered to specific hardware and software vendors, limiting their ability to adopt newer, more efficient technologies and negotiate better terms.

» Discover the benefits of SD-WAN redundancy

What to Expect From Your SD-WAN Vendor

flexiWAN infographic showing what to expect from your SD-WAN vendor

Now that we've covered what the promise of SD-WAN is all about, let's go over what to evaluate when choosing your SD-WAN vendor. Going with the right vendor is important and can significantly impact the effectiveness and efficiency of your network infrastructure. The right SD-WAN solution, such as a multi-vendor SD-WAN strategy, can provide more than just connectivity—you can also expect strategic advantages in network management and connectivity.

Key factors to consider when choosing an SD-WAN vendor include:

  • Vendor neutrality: Ensure the SD-WAN solution offers an open architecture that allows for the integration of 3rd party components that extend the system while avoiding vendor lock-in. This freedom allows you to select the best options based on performance, cost, and quality.
  • Robust security features: As cyber threats evolve, having an SD-WAN solution with advanced security features like integrated IPSec protocols is essential to safeguard your network.
  • Scalable and flexible deployment options: Look for an SD-WAN vendor that supports scalable and flexible network expansion. Features like zero-touch provisioning (ZTP) should be standard, simplifying deployments and network management.
  • Hardware agnosticism: Choose a vendor that supports hardware agnosticism, enabling you to use compatible devices and reducing dependency on specific manufacturers. The vendor should also certify some hardware devices and allow those hardware vendors to offer them pre-installed with the SD-WAN software to streamline deployment. These 2 would leave you with more choices.
  • Integration capabilities: Your SD-WAN solution should offer APIs to integrate seamlessly with your existing IT infrastructure and be adaptable to future technologies. Additionally, it should have a standard way to integrate with other cloud services (such as security) using an encrypted connection (e.g. IPsec). This ensures continuity and the ability to leverage new technologies as they emerge.

These key considerations can help you ensure that you select an SD-WAN vendor that not only meets your current networking needs, but also positions your business for future growth and changes in technology.

What Can an SD-WAN Vendor Offer?

SD-WAN introduces a more dynamic approach to network management, replacing rigid hardware-based solutions with flexible, software-driven configurations managed from a central location. This streamlines the deployment and management of network resources and enhances the ability to adapt to changes in network traffic patterns, application requirements, and cloud integration.

SD-WAN offers a compelling promise: enhanced connectivity, improved control, and potential cost reductions. Unlike traditional WANs, which rely heavily on physical hardware and manual configurations, SD-WAN abstracts traffic management and monitoring from hardware to software, making it faster and easier to deploy and manage.

This shift not only simplifies the entire network architecture but also improves its agility, providing businesses with the flexibility they need to quickly adapt to changing market conditions and technology advancements.

The benefit of utilizing an SD-WAN vendor instead of attempting it yourself include the following:

  • Reduced IT burden as professionals handle daily operations, configuration, and troubleshooting
  • Faster SD-WAN deployment
  • Scalability
  • Improved performance
  • Security

flexiWAN's Approach to SD-WAN and SASE

Adopting a hardware-agnostic stance, flexiWAN ensures that businesses are not confined to specific equipment, offering the freedom to choose and purchase directly from a wide array of certified devices that come pre-installed with the flexiWAN software while also allowing companies to bring their own hardware, thus, reduce cost and control the lifecycle of their hardware devices. Moreover, flexiWAN’s architecture is both open and modular. Similar to how smartphones operate, flexiWAN allows users to add functionalities as needed through applications.

Security is another cornerstone of flexiWAN’s offering, integrating Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) principles, which combine network and security functions. flexiWAN offers a Hybrid SASE approach where routing policy configured centrally in the cloud allow to decide which traffic would exit directly to the Internet from the local branch and which would be sent to a 3rd party cloud security of your choice over an encrypted connection. This model allows for selecting the best security approach while allowing for cost optimization.