The SD-WAN hype train is real. But how much will it cost? In this blog, we explore all the components that can impact SD-WAN pricing and present our thoughts as to whether the noise on SD-WAN cost savings versus MPLS is legitimate.
What is SD-WAN?
Before we look at SD-WAN pricing, we should remind ourselves of what exactly SD-WAN is.
SD-WAN stands for software-defined wide area networks. It is a WAN technology that uses software to control connectivity, management, bandwidth and services between sites such as data centres, main and remote branches and cloud instances.
The factors that impact SD-WAN pricing
- Network Size – Naturally a huge factor in the pricing of an SD-WAN solution is its size. The more locations, the higher the price. But it also has to be considered what the locations are. The more data centres on a network, the higher the cost will be. The big advantage of SD-WAN in terms of network size is that it easier to add new locations to the network, rather than having to pay for future capacity like you would need to do with MPLS.
- Technologies used – Not only will pricing vary from SD-WAN vendor, but it will also vary by the SD-WAN technology and package that you select. We will discuss in greater detail later in the blog when we look at managed v unmanaged SD-WAN but there are package upgrades available such as the inclusion of Next-generation Firewalls or Application Performance technology such as Application Quality of Experience (AppQoE). This is where bandwidth is dedicated to pre-determined apps and programs, using SLA automation rules against elements such as jitter and latency to ensure they always performing at optimum levels (requires multiple internet connections).
A further technology exclusive to SD-WAN is Zero-Touch Provisioning (ZTP). ZTP automates network configuration and heavily reduces configuration time and the potential for config errors. Engineers no longer need to go to the site to set up routers, instead, Customer Premise Equipment can be shipped and the config can be remotely be downloaded to it. This ensures complicated routing setups such as site-specific VPN rules can be set up in minutes.
- Resiliency – of course, every business will want a network that has disaster recovery built-in and SD-WAN makes that more achievable than ever before. However, the more resilience you want, the more the price will increase. Failover internet connections to every site, whilst cheaper than MPLS due to the ability to use Broadband, LTE (4g & 5G) and full-fibre technologies from a range of internet service providers (ISP’s), will still add up when rolled out across an entire network.
Also, for true resilience and no single point of failure, backup endpoints such as routers and firewalls will need to be employed, which can in theory double the hardware costs on the network.
- WAN connectivity – With more and more choices available to different locations across the United Kingdom, one of the biggest factors in making SD-WAN more cost-effective than MPLS is the savings available on internet connectivity. Instead of being tied to a single provider with limited buying power and network reach, you can choose connectivity from different suppliers and take advantage of their individual network reach, whilst still being able to manage these connections from an SD-WAN orchestrator/GUI portal in real-time.
Managed SD-WAN vs Unmanaged SD-WAN
Many SD-WAN providers are offering SD-WAN as a service to help businesses reduce upfront costs and also means the provider will have more responsibility for the day-to-day management of the SD-WAN network. Alongside the management, it also ensures that businesses do not require in-house skills and expertise – a potential cost-saving on training courses as well as removing the need for extra IT professional and their salaries – a cost that definitely should be factored in when looking at SD-WAN pricing.
Businesses are currently employing multi-cloud strategies, including both public cloud, private cloud, and moving away from on-premise solutions. This is something that has only been accelerated by the pandemic and the mass migration to remote-working technologies. Whilst SD-WAN is the perfect solution for a remote-working environment, it has to be considered the increased number of sites, connections and cloud services/cloud applications into a network does bring network security into question. Using a managed service with integrated security functionality, such as next-gen firewalls, will do a good deal to alleviate these concerns rather than employing an overlay service.
The big question to ask when weighing up a managed v unmanaged SD-WAN service is how cost-effective each of the options is for the specific needs of your business.
For more information on SD-WAN visit our dedicated SD-WAN page, contact us on 01635 884170 or fill in the contact form below to request a demonstration.