SD-WAN Exploration Day

By ,

A spring-like day in London and there was a buzz in BT Centre as everyone introduced themselves, swapped travel experiences and then IT architecture war-stories. People had travelled to hear about BT’s integrated SD-WAN solution from Cisco and see Cisco’s SD-WAN technology in action with interactive demonstrations in our Customer Experience Centre.


Our guests faced a range of challenges

Some attendees had just built on-campus data-centres and were being forced to move them, other IT leaders were under the constraints of a risk-averse finance sector, seeking to innovate, but being stifled by legacy; still others saw the network as critical to their role ensuring public safety but most were at a point of network refresh and were becoming convinced that Cisco SD-WAN showed the promise of a flexible, cloud-ready, future network.

Four key themes & tips from the day

1.    Cisco SD-WAN as an enabler for digital transformation
Tip: The move to SD-WAN requires a much wider group of an organisation’s stakeholders to get on board than ever before. Buy-in from cloud strategists, application owners, CISOs, from voice architects to network architects, and the wider CxO suite; is essential.

2.    Move to hybrid WAN
Tip: the scale is tipping in favour of internet in a hybrid network but enterprises are not removing MPLS completely. Rationale was that transport WAN (or ‘underlay’) could become more cost-effective and site profile appropriate with SD-WAN. It was acknowledged that business critical apps at key sites would keep MPLS for the medium term.

3.    Application bleed-out
Tip: beware the risk of application ‘bleed-out’ to the cloud with apps like O365, SAP, MuleSoft, etc. being adopted before the network strategy has been updated to take account of this shift.

4.    The power of Cisco SD-WAN to prioritise applications across the network
Tip: the granular capability of the Cisco SD-WAN solution allows 100’s of applications to be prioritised across 1,000’s of sites. This even to the point of when to grant access to (say) YouTube; to get best use out of the network but not stifle employee productivity.

Our panel of experts described a way forward

The panel sessions, which included contributions from BT’s Rich Oliver and Cisco’s Dominic Elliott, reminded the audience that not every SD-WAN is created equal and that enterprises need to think about the availability of in-house skills to design & dimension SD-WAN. Also, that the best solution will have the best access network and MPLS brings guaranteed performance where required. To top it off the right service-level agreements and managed service-wrap would de-risk and remove operational headaches.

We held a poll and the results were

The IT leaders who attended our event heard from industry experts and participated in solution demonstrations that included unified comms, Security and Cisco SD-WAN. We wanted to make sure we considered all aspects of an organisation’s transformation that SD-WAN can power. We then polled our customers and the results showed that:

  • 46% were convinced of the benefits of SD-WAN and were ready to get on board right now
  • 53% believed ability to prioritise traffic across the network was the most important benefit to their organisation

From side-bar conversations it was evident that organisations would like to better understand SD-WAN benefits to realise transformational costs. They recognised that having a greater insight and control over end user applications, both private and cloud, would transform their business agility and flexibility.

The time is now to explore the benefits of SD-WAN

Although Chris Barnard (VP of European Infrastructure and Communications, IDC) was our first speaker of the day I leave the last words, here, to him:

‘The network should be positioned as a critical enabler of digital transformation and the business case for network transformation should be built on that basis. SD-WAN will be a cornerstone of that network transformation. Organisations should explore what benefits SD-WAN can bring to them.’

What next:

Read more here.

Let’s connect – link in with Steve Coakley, Head of Network Propositions at BT to find hear more about SD-WAN.


Steve Coakley


Let's stay in touch