SD-WAN DIY vs Third-Party Service Provider: Lessons from the Field

by Mike Frane
December 22, 2017


Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) is rapidly replacing traditional WAN in enterprise networking, for good reason – including greatly reduced service costs and downtime, plus improved network security and flexibility. The question for most organizations isn’t whether to make the transition, but how to realize maximum benefit.

Windstream recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to study midmarket organizations’ success in achieving their objectives with SD-WAN solutions, and the study uncovered interesting lessons learned in the field.

One key takeaway: The further along an organization is in the transition to SD-WAN, the more value it typically sees in third-party assistance.

That study, and a Windstream webinar featuring a guest from Forrester that expands on it, are available for public consumption. If your organization is currently working to chart the most effective course to SD-WAN, both are extremely well worth a look.

The challenge of go-it-alone SD-WAN

Organizations with strong internal IT capabilities have long outsourced WAN connectivity but kept network management and oversight in-house. The Forrester study reveals that when these organizations take this approach to SD-WAN, they typically encounter entirely new sets of barriers to improving WAN infrastructure. More accurately, they run into barriers that are new to them – and those barriers can be very significant.

The issue is that SD-WAN represents a tremendous departure from the systems it replaces. It takes a great deal of specific knowledge to define and implement just the right SD-WAN solution for a given organization, and to manage and optimize ongoing performance relative to an organization’s unique needs. Those who are doing it for the first time have a steep learning curve. That’s why the Forrester study found a wide gap between how an organization values third-party assistance during the planning and early implementation phases, and how that assistance is seen by those who are much further along.

Highlights from the Forrester Consulting study

Additional highlights from the Forrester study include:

  • Nearly all organizations (90%) consider their network either critical or important to the success of their digital transformation.
  • 64% of US-based companies are in the stages of planning to implement or expanding implementation of an SD-WAN solution from a traditional WAN in the next 12 months (Forrester Data Global Business Technographics® Networks And Telecommunications Survey, 2017).
  • SD-WAN often proves to be a much bigger undertaking than initially assumed, with the shift toward valuing third-party assistance rising with experience.
  • As SD-WAN is far from a commodity offering, third-party service providers vary widely on security, reliability, and service options – selecting the right partner requires considerations beyond those involved in outsourcing connectivity.

Field findings expanded in webinar

Speaker BioWindstream hosted a webinar featuring a guest from Forrester that builds on the Forrester study. I joined guest Forrester principal analyst Andre Kindness and walked participants through Forrester’s findings and expanded on the steps organizations can take to optimize their SD-WAN transition.

Our key take away from Andre: An SD-WAN undertaking isn’t for the faint of heart, as achieving resiliency with redundancy and security requires specialized skillsets.

Key take away from Me: SD-WAN is an investment and you’ll get so much more out of your WAN if you do this right.

After distilling lessons learned from the field regarding the role a managed services provider can play, Andre presents the seven critical questions an organization should ask a potential network service provider when selecting a third-party source for the undertaking.

For more information

For further insight, please read the full Forrester Consulting study, commissioned by Windstream Enterprise, SD-WAN Networks Enable Modern Digital Business Ecosystems, an August 2017 commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Windstream. It’s also useful for sharing with others involved in piloting your organization’s transition to SD-WAN.

After reviewing the study, please view the Windstream webinar, Trusted Service Providers Enable a Smooth Transition to SD-WAN. Replay takes less than an hour – time we believe you’ll find to be extremely well spent.