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Network Jan 22, 2020

3 top tips to make your SD-WAN proof-of-concept a success

By Adrian Comley Senior manager managed network services, BT

Today, organisations and digital enterprises need a network that supports their business goals and meets ever-evolving customer demands.

As people expect more collaborative and immersive applications, the pressure on your bandwidth grows — so it’s important to prioritise the key applications which will drive your business. SD-WAN allows you to tackle this increased demand because you’re able to prioritise traffic over the internet or MPLS with intelligent pathway selection.

Making the move to SD-WAN is the first step to achieve this dynamic network but it can be a perplexing and overwhelming upgrade. What’s more, upgrading your network can be expensive, time-consuming and, potentially, risky. Choose the wrong solution and the process will not only interrupt business as usual, but also possibly fail to provide the solutions you need.

Ideally, you need a proof of concept, a chance to experience what an SD-WAN solution could do for your business, before beginning your digital transformation journey. A virtual SD-WAN platform, for example, can help you test and gather the information you need to fully understand the risks and reality of this technology.

A virtual experience: the more you put in, the more you get out

A separate, virtual proof-of-concept means you have the opportunity to test whether an SD-WAN solution will solve some of the problems your organisation is experiencing such as poor performance for SaaS applications or a lack of visibility. It also allows you to explore the value it can add, all without any business interruption. By minimising and effectively removing any risk to businesses, this virtual experience allows organisations a far greater level of exploration, so you can build a thorough business case and make sure that the solution is perfectly matched to your needs.

With access to pre-defined, pre-modelled SD-WAN scenarios, you can ‘pick and mix’ various SD-WAN responses. It’s an opportunity for meaningful testing, so whether you want to review the performance of priority applications under bandwidth pressure, or simulate applications into the cloud for a remote branch office, you can experience the specific areas that are a concern for your business.

Using a granular approach, you can accurately test your unique environment and explore in detail the impact SD-WAN will have on your network sites and application models. It’s a risk-free way to view demonstrations of behaviour mapping for numerous applications and amend the solutions as necessary to meet your needs. For example, you can carry out unique behavioural tests, such as walking through application prioritisation in a failure scenario or assessing the consequence of moving with SD-WAN to a local breakout for users.

A three-step process

Ideally, you need three clearly defined elements in order to have a successful proof-of-concept (POC). These include: 

1.  Discover

The first step is to look at your current network state and what business objectives you have i.e. how can your network be more effective and responsive for cloud adoption.

2.  Evaluate

Next, you need to identify the various users who access your organisation’s network. For example, the CIO, CXO, procurement team and end user all need the network to respond in different ways. It’s therefore important to define the success criteria for each of these individuals. At this stage you also need to consider SLAs, applications, user experience and security features and agree clear project objectives, before conducting any POC.

3. Recommend

Finally, based on your agreed aims, scenarios and proof of concept scope, your trial can go live, using various pre-modelled or individual tests. Once the tests are complete, it’s also important to have detailed reports to assess whether or not your objectives were met, whether SD-WAN has value for your organisation and to build your business case for SD-WAN. Ultimately, the more detail you have, the more visibility and therefore greater confidence in the solution you choose.

A network for the future

Our new Explorer and Explorer Plus Labs are dedicated to providing a virtual proof of concept, and letting you walk through this. They allow our customers to experience SD-WAN technology in action, choosing from either pre-defined or customer-centric scenarios.

With the business world moving at such a fast-pace, the Explorer Lab is the best way to shorten your decision making process and reduce the risk and inconvenience to transform your current network. Discover more about our Explorer Labs, here, including how the lab constantly evolves to incorporate our latest products and solutions, keeping you on the cutting edge of the software defined world.