These arguments will help you when discussing SD-WAN

At the moment, the hot topic regarding corporate networks is SD-WAN that is coming to conquer the markets. According to estimates–each one wilder than the previous one–the death of the MPLS VPN technology currently used by operators is inevitable.

The sales pitches for SD-WAN promise that company offices can be connected to the network within a delivery time of few hours. And not just that. There are also the additional benefits of up to 50 per cent savings in network costs and much faster cloud services.

Can you even believe that? Is it too good to be true?

The operating environment of Finnish companies has some exceptional advantages that are good to know when discussing SD-WAN.

It is good to understand these advantages so you will not get strung along:

Usually, SD-WAN operators propose that fixed internet access (ISP) is established for the company’s site and/or an MPLS VPN is used in parallel. In Finland, 4G and 5G connections are better options for complementing a fixed connection. By selecting them, the company can ensure that accidental excavation of cables will not interrupt its operations. This is because cables for the fixed connections of buildings are typically all located in the same fiber duct.

Finland has nationwide LTE 4G coverage with back-up and plenty of available frequency band. The combination of a fixed and mobile network is a better, less expensive and more secure solution.

Finland’s fixed and mobile networks have the lowest costs and the highest quality in the world. This is an achievement for which we can thank the good co-operation between authorities and operators. In many countries, the lack of easy co-operation has resulted in high connection costs and modest 4G coverage. For this reason, any promises given elsewhere in the world concerning cost-savings must be considered with caution here in Finland.

Nevertheless, SD-WAN implementations have been done in Finland already for more than a decade, and in many companies they have been at least in parallel use. That makes us pioneers in the building of telecommunications networks. When implementation is done correctly, the benefits they bring to companies far outweigh the related additional costs. Easier management of the logical network, better information security, more reliable network services and optimised traffic to public cloud are worth pursuing.

If you are not sure if an equivalent technology is already being used, ask an expert who understands the big picture. Otherwise you might end up acquiring overlapping technologies. If that happens, network change management and troubleshooting become extremely difficult. Things can go from bad to worse.

In Finland, the delivery time for fixed connections is not a major problem–not for a closed MPLS VPN connection or internet access, let alone 4G. In the future, as a result of co-operation between authorities and operators, delivery times will be even shorter, including the delivery times for fast fibre connections.

In an international setting, delivery times are the Achilles' heel of operators, and this is the major selling point of SD-WAN. It is often impossible to understand why it takes months to deliver connections between two sites.

It is good to remember that despite all promises, SD-WAN requires either a mobile or fixed network connection to operate.

Therefore it is important to know if the delivery time refers to the delivery time of the physical connection or that of the logical network to be implemented on top of it and at which sites. The process for obtaining permits for establishing connections varies greatly in different countries, especially concerning excavation. The operator is not always responsible for everything, but mutual processes can of course be developed further.

Increasingly diverse network solutions and technologies are being developed based on user requirements and for new purposes. It is the operator’s task to take them as the basis and provide services that customers need and can use, while ensuring that the services are easy to utilise, manage and monitor.

Not all information available online is reliable. If something sounds too good to be true, that is usually the case. However, I am convinced that SD-WAN technologies’ role in the traditional network services provided by operators will become more significant in Finland, as well.