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Which vendors offer low cost SD WAN?

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As businesses look to make savings across WAN connectivity, invariably low cost SD WAN services are of interest due to the marketing surrounding the capability to consolidate network functions into a single appliance.

With this said, multiple areas should be examined to achieve overall cost reduction, these include SD WAN vendor appliances, license costs, network connectivity, security, WAN optimization, managed services and professional services consultancy.

IT teams intent on maximizing cost efficiencies will generally begin their research starting with unmanaged (DIY) SD WAN where the vendor capability is purchased directly as an appliance or NFV delivered solution. The next step up from a cost perspective is to consider a basic managed SD WAN which is sold by the vendor/MSP (Managed Service Provider) or traditional carrier. Lastly, a fully managed SD WAN where all elements are outsourced including end to end monitoring and security services.

While DIY WAN solutions may appear to be the most effective route into low cost SD WAN, your IT team will require the engineering staff to configure, support and monitor the solution. There are often significant costs associated with internally managing your own WAN capability together with risks surrounding choosing the right configuration options without creating a security issue (for example).

At a high level, SD WAN white box providers often offer the best low cost solutions as the base overlay can be built up in a modular fashion based on individual component needs. This is in contrast to buying off the shelf vendor products where you may not require each solution component.

Which vendors offer low cost SD WAN?

The following appliance vendors offer cost effective SD WAN solutions. Note, there are more elements to consider outside of the data points included within the table. We would recommend completing the SD WAN assessment to ensure you align your requirements.

Vendor Expereo Globalgig Cloudgenix Open Systems Fortinet
Primary line of business Aggregator of network connectivity Aggregator of network connectivity SD WAN vendor SD WAN vendor and security Security with SD WAN
SD WAN technologies Offer Viptela and Silver Peak (HPE Aruba), Aryaka, VMWare Cisco Meraki, Cisco Viptela, Fortinet Own capability as a vendor Own capability as a vendor Own capability as a vendor
Elevator pitch Expereo can provide aggregation in 200+ countries with Broadband, Ethernet, 4G and microwave connectivity Globalgig provides custom over the top managed SD WAN. Offering network intelligence to design the right solution vs cost. Layer 7 application awareness with availability in 100+ countries. 20 years of experience with a security focus. Firm history in security, well developed ASICs, high performing devices
SD WAN architecture Using their global partnerships aligned with vendors Edge based only using Meraki, Viptela and Fortinet Edge based, own solution Edge based, own solution Edge based, own solution

Let's look at each area to learn more about the implications of making savings vs your existing capability without sacrificing service levels.

SD WAN appliance and license costs

The cost of Software-WAN appliances, whether based on hardware or virtualised, is dependent on the features selected and the associated license. And, depending on the vendor, licenses are often tied to bandwidth in addition to features.

As businesses continue to adopt SaaS (Software as a Service), buying 'network as a service' is being adopted fast with SD WAN sold as a subscription model. If we look at Cisco as an example, their latest acquisitions have all surrounded software-centric and cloud-ready solution providers. With the subscription trend in mind, your costs for network services will typically revolve around an MRR (Monthly recurring model). The only exception to the MRR model is network connectivity, upfront hardware costs and professional services. In many cases, connectivity and hardware install is amortized across the contract term.

As an example of where SD WAN can reduce costs, consider a retailer with hundreds of branches requiring access to SaaS applications. The typical solution would be to backhaul traffic across private circuits (MPLS WAN links) which traditionally results in a high cost. With SD WAN features (cloud path selection, WAN optimization), leveraging the Internet with flexible contract terms means everything comes together across SD WAN, Cloud services, IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and SaaS on a single monthly payment.

While licensing sounds like a good option, businesses should consider whether your prospective vendors offer flexible license transfer if your IT environment is subject to change.

Does NFV offer a lower cost vs WAN edge hardware devices?

Gartner has stated the growth of SD WAN is increasing by over 30% on an annual basis. With the marketing hype driving growth, IT teams are attempting to make sense of the different technology options, specifically SD WAN vs NFV costs.

In theory, NFV solutions are typically considered a lower cost as the infrastructure is often already in place within data center locations. Or, if new virtual servers are provisioned, the infrastructure can be used for other requirements.

With the NFV hardware removed, subscriptions and license costs need to be carefully considered as NFV solutions often require additional licensing for various aspects of the overall capability.

Some examples of additional subscriptions:

We performed some research using our existing data-set from Netify, low cost hardware starts at around £1800 for a base NFV solution but this does not include all of the additional license requirements for features. Outside of commercials, the vendors offering Software-WAN edge (rather than NFV) are often deploying hardware using custom ASICs / security processors which are specifically designed for performing routing and security. In turn, the performance per £1 spent provides better ROI (Return on Investment).

SD WAN Cost Picture

Internet and MPLS connectivity

Using the Internet to realize costs savings vs MPLS will vary from country to country. Within the US, for example, Ethernet Internet is offered for a much lower cost vs MPLS. In contrast, the UK has some parity between the cost of MPLS connections vs Internet where the price difference isn't too dissimilar (aside from managed services).

In order to reduce costs, the decision regarding whether to procure the lowest cost ISP service for each branch-office location should be considered. The alternative is to use a single ISP backbone (where possible) for your sites which may result in certain locations standing out as higher costs due to their proximity to the ISP network.

The advantage of using multiple ISP services is firmly around cost but there is also an additional benefit when considering diversity. When implementing solutions, where multiple providers are delivering connectivity, there is business diversity since your requirements are spread across providers.

With this said, the preferred route is to use a single Internet provider where possible. In simple terms, keeping network traffic on a single backbone ensures predictable latency and jitter, plus network issues are easier to troubleshoot.

Using multiple Internet providers for primary and failover is not recommended if your requirement is to deliver 'no single point of failure' capability. The only way to achieve maximum uptime is to order a primary and secondary diverse product, e.g. RA02. In our business, we see solutions where dual providers are used but these solutions never offer the diversity in a fiber outage situation.

Support across multiple ISPs may also become a challenge over time. Depending on your SD WAN architecture, from the perspective of managed services vs DIY, it might be your responsibility to liaise with each provider in the event network issues are encountered.

What types of SD WAN connectivity lowers cost?

Businesses will typically turn to lower cost connectivity when looking to reduce WAN expenditure. Where multiple branch-offices exist, Broadband offers cost-effective bandwidth as follows:

  • FTTC - Fiber to the Cabinet, speeds of up to 80Mbps download and 20Mbps upload.
  • FTTP - Fiber to the Premises, speeds of up to 330Mbps download and 50Mbps upload (based on average bandwidth offerings within the market)

Depending on the SD WAN vendor capability, even low cost Broadband circuits can be utilized for delay-sensitive applications such as Voice and Video.

SD WAN managed services costs

The majority of SD WAN solutions begin as a DIY conversation due to the ease of management via rich GUI (Graphical User Interface) based portals and the desire to remove lock-in from MSPs (Managed Service Providers) and telco providers. The overall perception of SD WAN is one of networking as a service which fits with the SaaS and IaaS cloud model, i.e. networking purchased as a recurring subscription.

Despite the cost saving drivers behind the DIY SD WAN approach, the majority of businesses are choosing managed services. Frost & Sullivan have forecast that the managed SD WAN market place will grow to $3.5 billion by 2022.

The alternative to fully managed SD WAN is part or co-managed services where the vendor offers initial support (e.g. 1 month) and light management services throughout the contract. One way to avoid costly mistakes is to conduct a proof of concept where your IT team will gain an understanding of SD WAN deployment complexity.

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