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SD WAN: How to choose between DIY and a Managed Service

Questions to help choose between DIY vs Managed SD WAN

When you move to SD WAN, you will be taking on a network that remains complex despite SD WAN, and one that still retains the underlay that you’ve always had.

Here are three decisions that will need to be made:

  • Who will own the design and the understanding about this network?
  • Who will do the work to roll out the overlay and underlay?
  • Who will do the work to manage the overlay and underlay?

Ten questions to help choose between DIY and Managed SD WAN

Here are some questions to help you decide whether you want to do this work yourself or whether you would prefer a managed service to do it for you.

  1. Do you want to retain CCIE or equivalent skills to design the network and troubleshoot tricky problems?
  2. Do you want to manage the procurement and provision of circuits?
  3. Do you want to project manage the deployment of your WAN?
  4. Do you want to run a field engineering team to deploy and then support in-life?
  5. Do you want to supply the WAN helpdesk staff required for 24x7x365 cover?
  6. Do you want to manage the traditional parts of your network that might still be needed? 
  7. Do you want to be the place where the buck stops?
  8. Do you want to manage connections to Cloud?
  9. Do you want your team to manage the network or to concentrate on adding value to your business? 
  10. Why are you using a Managed Network today and how many of those reasons still apply with SD WAN?

For more detail on these questions, read: How to choose between DIY and Managed SD WAN.

Do you want to retain CCIE or equivalent skills to design the network and troubleshoot tricky problems?

With a DIY SD WAN you would need to design the network and manage not just the devices and software, but also the circuits, carriers and underlay performance. It might be easy to roll out changes using SD WAN but you still need expertise to handle the underlay and deal with subtle performance issues or difficult problems arising.

Do you want to manage the procurement and provision of circuits?

Do you want to manage the procurement and provision of circuits across multiple countries, multiple carriers and multiple technologies, in multiple currencies and languages? SD WAN could make this work more complex, because it will encourage multiple circuits per site, across multiple technologies, possibly from multiple carriers, maybe in multiple languages, and the need for a new security regime as you increase your exposure to the internet.

Do you want to project manage the deployment of your WAN?

A WAN project manager will plan, lead, co-ordinate, schedule and document the deployment of your SD WAN network, perhaps also the transition from your existing network. An experienced WAN project manager will know how to deal with a huge range of issues; procurement of hardware and licences; co-ordination of deliveries and engineers, managing wayleaves, and dealing with carriers when circuits are delayed and can make the difference between success or failure. Find out more in our article How to choose between DIY and Managed SD WAN.

Do you want to run a field engineering team to deploy and then support in-life?

Many in IT see the WAN as a critical resource for which a responsible engineer rather than a janitor should attend to install, test, liaise and document your SD WAN device installations and support visits.  If you move to a DIY model you’ll need to set up deployment and logistics processes, train (potentially hire) engineers, manage workload peaks and troughs, holiday and sickness cover, as well as training to mitigate regular experience if WAN is not the day job.

Do you want to supply the WAN helpdesk staff required for 24x7x365 cover?

Our article on Managed vs DIY SD WAN explains why you should have a 24x7 helpdesk even if you don’t operate around the clock. You need a minimum of three shifts to handle 24-hour working, and then cover for holiday and sickness and then additional resource to support the different skills of first, second and third line agents. That’s probably a minimum of five people. Someone will also need to deal with management, keeping skills up to date and succession planning.  The cost for this should be part of the calculus for choosing between Managed and DIY.

Do you want to manage the traditional parts of your network that might still be needed? 

If you operate in locations where the prohibition of encryption or other constraints prevents you running SD WAN then you could find yourself running a more traditional network in those locations.  It is worth considering whether those situations could apply to you, along with your attitude towards managing them yourself.

Do you want to be the place where the buck stops?

A Managed Service provides expertise to deal with problems and relieves you of the ownership and stress of those problems. Since SD WAN adds the complexity of multiple circuits, dynamic path allocation and a new attack surface, it is arguable that a managed service could be more attractive internet with SD WAN. It is worth considering your attitude towards ownership and accountability for keeping the network running and performing 24x7.

Do you want to manage connections to Cloud?

Cloud connectivity comes with design choices and management implications, such as optimising the cost for egress from the platform.   It is helpful to consider whether you would prefer to make the design decisions and handle the work yourself or use a managed service.

Do you want your team to manage the network or to concentrate on adding value to your business? 

Most businesses have limited IT resources and want to deploy them in the most effective way.  A common line of reasoning is that the IT Team should concentrate on things that only they can do, and have the WAN managed by experts.

Why are you using a Managed Network today and how many of those reasons will still apply with SD WAN?

It would help to identify all the reasons why you're using a managed service today and decide which would still apply with SD WAN.  What do you value in your current Managed WAN Service?

  • The procurement and provision of circuits and carriers?
  • The project management of deployments?
  • The field engineering team to deploy and then support in-life?
  • The 24x7x365 WAN helpdesk to deal with problems arising?
  • Someone to rely on, and with whom the buck stops?
  • The design and management of connections to Cloud?
  • The provision of networking skills to design the network and troubleshoot tricky problems?
  • Having expertise on tap?
  • Accountability - the buck stops over there?
  • Freeing your team to concentrate on adding value to your business?