Meeting 8 - South Hants IT group - SD-WAN

22 November 2019

SD-WAN was a bit of a gamble for a subject within the South Hants IT community, specifically it had the potential to be very technical, but clearly has broad relevance as a topic that is being discussed by many (normally larger) enterprises. All respect to Tayo Ogunseyinde, our presenter from Versa Networks, in finding an excellent balance between delivering a technical subject in a way that even I could understand. Thanks also to Axians UK for helping line up the speakers

The presentation was to provide an overview of what SD-WAN was, when it was relevant, what the likely benefits were, who the major players were in the marketplace and what questions to ask to engage the market. Versa clearly have an excellent well rounded proposition, and although the presentation was an independent view of the topic, it is clear they have an interesting angle (especially considering their relatively modest size). Again, Tayo was fiercely honest in the positioning of Versa against his competitors, listing both strengths and weaknesses of his product vs the other brands.

My takeaways from the presentation were:

  • SD-WAN (Software Defined Wide Area Networking) provides a layer of abstraction from the complexities of managing complex connectivity infrastructures. It makes networks easier to navigate / upgrade, and provides a level of intelligence that many traditional networks don’t have by default.
  • The key drivers for an SD-WAN implementation would be:
  • 1)  Move away from proprietary hardware skills and services, to allow flexibility to buy different brands of equipment within a single network
  • 2) Reduce the likelihood of human error in managing a network, as the software provides a level of automation and intelligence that irons out potential faults
  • 3) Improve automation across a network to allow for “rules based” actions, such as throttling back low priority traffic across a network when a line is down automatically based on situational context.
  • There are a lot of big names in the vendor marketplace, all of whom have different propositions focusing on specific functions, so a client requirement will drive the vendor choice over anything else. Other Vendors include Velocloud, Viptela, Cisco, Palo Alto, Fortinet – pretty much every network vendor claims to have an SD-WAN offering of sorts.
  • The move to the cloud is driving more interest in SD-WAN, as SaaS solutions can be prioritised / segregated using the technology, focussing availability/performance on the important SaaS services. Major cloud players such as AWS or Azure can be treated as a “branch” on the network too, allowing full management of the topology.
  • SD-WAN also allows a lot of flexibility at the transport layer, allowing options to install two or three cheaper lines instead of an expensive higher class line. The software auto-detects failure and re-routes to leverage the lower class services. Diversity of route is key here.
  • Some SD-WAN services (including Versa) provide API integration to allow programmatic access to the functionality, meaning developers can manage the network layer if required.
  • In some cases, SD-WAN has dropped OpEx costs by 60%, and justifies well at contract renewal stage (especially MPLS services), albeit the cost of change could be substantial.
  • An issue with adoption is some Telco/Service Providers avoid the conversation with their clients as the revenue reduction from relatively margin rich services like MPLS can be seen as a negative for the Service Providers financials. Clients need to proactively push to get the projects working.

Some discussion was had about the future of the group, specifically confirmation that we will continue in 2020 but with the following changes:

-         I'm going to get some help with the admin

-         We discussed subscription costs as it was proposed we should offer it for free, but this drives a reduction in the value of the services. It was decided to maintain the current £30pa fee structure, starting again in 2020.

-         We will actively look for partnerships / collaboration with other local networking groups to drive a common agenda

Because of the levels of subscription, Embedded have made a small loss on this during 2019 and as a result no further charity donations will be made, however this continues to be an objective for 2020.

Next years meetings will be scheduled in bulk, every two months starting in January – dates to be confirmed. Topics of note were IoT Security, Augmented Reality, Business Resiliency methods, 5G, Using Data in Market Research. 

All in all, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in 2019, we’ve got a good community of people, who are forming some solid relationships, with complementary skills and services. After a few wines I started blathering about how we should all form a company as we’ve got all of the skills and services to do something spectacular, but that’s the downside of Malbec and no dinner.

As ever, any questions, comments or feedback, please get in touch.

Phil (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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