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Video: Challenges of Managed SD-WAN Services

When I published a link to the Is MPLS/VPN Too Complex? blog post to LinkedIn, someone asked whether I’m skeptical about service provider SD-WAN services due to lack of skills, and Kristijan Taskovski quickly identified the root cause in his reply:

The argument of a lack of skill is only one that is perpetuated by businesses. It’s not perpetuated by engineers. People that are trained, honed, and knowledgeable are expensive. Expense is the number one enemy for a business.

That’s exactly why I think most managed SD-WAN services will be a dismal failure.

Many service providers fail to build the internal infrastructure needed to support MPLS/VPN or SD-WAN complexity (and integration with customer networks), and so the service sucks. Building competent design and support teams is clearly a business problem, not a technical one, and if you’re not willing to invest into building a competent design, deployment and support teams, you SHOULD NOT offer services based on complex technology (not that anyone ever cared).

Unfortunately, being faced with the results of that (failed) exercise often turns into a technical problem that a smart end-user should avoid, and that’s why I’m pointing that out to the potential consumers of those services.

For more details, watch the Challenges of Managed SD-WAN Services video (part of Business Aspects of Networking Technologies) webinar.

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  1. This blog post is prophetic since I am involved in the final aspects of a managed SD-WAN deployment. Depending on the size of the company and how much you want "managed" by the vendor it can still be a good solution vs. rolling your own. However as with any vendor it can go off the rails quickly if your exposure to how much you give to the vendor to "manage" and your project risk shifts to a dependency you have no control over.

    I have a client where we went through a managed SD-WAN deployment, started out great and simple for a 60 site WAN and a few DCs but due to the pandemic and shortage of talent we felt the change in talent turnover, service quality which resulted in mismanagement and the project to be a year late. Our vendor is pretty good, they were our MPLS provider(where we managed all the sites) and we moved to their Managed SD-WAN solution(where they now manage the site). However, issues started to show with the talent turnover and the size of the project.

    Plus, be careful on how much you want or need to be managed by the vendor… For example, you can have managed SD-WAN where the vendor handles all the design, configuration of the appliances and the customer will provide the project management and network circuits(split responsibility = less risk exposure) OR have the SD-WAN vendor cover the entire network design, build and post installation management, order circuits, handle VOIP service for you(responsibility entirely on vendor = higher risk exposure/less control).

    In my example one consistent issue was the vendor also covered the ordering of circuits and they were slower and didn’t' manage the carriers well which resulted in mis-configuration, multiple visits to sites, schedule delays, re-dos etc. vs. when we handled circuit orders ourselves we were much more efficient and quicker.

    So one major lesson for selecting Manage SD-WAN services is the technical aspect(design/configuration of appliances etc) may be solid, depending on your vendor of course, but the other managed ancillary services for project management, deployment provisioning and build may not and that’s where an additional exposure to issues and delays comes in.

    1. Thanks for the feedback.

      It's nice to know I wasn't too far off the mark, but in this particular case, I'm sorry to hear I got it right :(

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