It’s time for SD-WAN to grow up


2018 has already been hailed as the “Year of SD-WAN” and while the promises of this technology are undoubtedly appealing to most enterprises, it’s equally important to understand its potential shortcomings.

The “Death of the Router” has been largely exaggerated by those trying to market their “silver bullet” solutions that still lack basic routing capabilities. While there’s no doubt that years of technical debt have added some unnecessary functionality to the modern router, it’s worth acknowledging that there are many “table-stakes” features leveraged that need to exist in any SD-WAN solution that is meant to replace those boring routers.

I’d like to highlight some often-missed considerations drawn from hard lessons learned by SD-WAN early adopters. Specific names and details have been left out to protect both the guilty and innocent.

1. Routing support

If you’re looking to quickly down-select SD-WAN vendors, ask your favorite pure-play startup or pivoting vendor about Multicast, IPv6, IGP and full BGP support and you’ll quickly get to your short-list. The harsh reality is that many of the solutions that exist were either built from the ground-up with limited routing capabilities or are products attempting to pivot into the space – such as WAN Optimizers and Link Load-Balancers – that were typically run in an inline mode. I’ve seen new routers sold along with SD-WAN solutions (originally meant to replace those routers) and GRE tunnels leveraged over the SD-WAN overlays to facilitate a missed Multicast requirement.

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