Do-It-Yourself and carrier-managed SD-WAN sit on opposite ends of the WAN management spectrum. The DIY approach puts enterprises in control of their WAN. The carrier-managed approach abstracts away complexity. Each approach has its upsides, but for the majority of organizations, locking yourself in to either one of the extreme ends of the spectrum comes with suboptimal tradeoffs.
Co-managed SD-WAN strikes a balance between the two approaches. This tends to be a better fit for the realities of the modern WAN. Being able to have the ability to self-service things like security policies while abstracting away infrastructure patching and maintenance is a much better paradigm to operate from.
Of course, making an informed decision on what works best for you requires exploring the pros and cons of the different methods.
The pros and cons of DIY SD-WAN
The upsides of the DIY approach to SD-WAN is freedom of choice and no dependence on an MSP (managed service provider) for issue resolution. The enterprise provisions, configures, and manages the WAN. This means configurations can be fine-tuned to meet specific requirements and mean time to repair is completely under the enterprise’s control.
If your enterprise has the in-house expertise to manage all aspects of the WAN, as well as the time and resources to dedicate to doing so, DIY SD-WAN may make sense. Compared to carrier-managed SD-WAN, this could lead to a non-trivial reduction in WAN costs overall. However, there are a number of downsides as well.
The lack of an SLA when you bypass an MSP can be a major problem. Reliability of the network is a key aspect of any enterprise WAN. If you cannot guarantee WAN performance, business-critical apps like VoIP and UCaaS may suffer.
Additionally, when you take the DIY approach to SD-WAN, you are adding complexity that in-house staff must manage. Security is a must, so you’ll need to source and integrate security appliances for the WAN, which will require more resources and specialized knowledge. Further, most appliance-based SD-WAN solutions do a poor job of meeting the demands of mobile users and cloud apps and services. This means that in-house staff will need to be able to develop and integrate solutions that address these needs as well. When all of the downsides are considered, many organizations find that DIY SD-WAN simply isn’t practical. The cost savings erode as complexity is layered in.
The pros and cons of managed SD-WAN
The pros and cons of carrier-managed SD-WAN are almost the exact opposite of that of the DIY approach. With carrier-managed SD-WAN, the complexities of the WAN are abstracted away. Organizations get what is effectively a turnkey solution. The carrier-managed MSP downsides boil down to increased costs and reduced agility, with a risk of vendor lock-in.
In many cases, MSPs are simply repackaging DIY appliances and adding a hefty price tag for their service. This obviously drives up cost. However, depending on a provider can also hamstrings agility. Changes to the network require a service ticket that make take days to complete, even for simple tasks like firewall modification.
How co-managed SD-WAN helps strike the perfect balance
In other aspects of IT, such as IaaS on platforms like AWS and Azure, there have long been alternatives to these two extremes. For example, AWS’s Shared Responsibility Model creates a balance where organizations benefit from abstraction of complexity at the infrastructure level, while still retaining full control over the servers and apps they build on the platform. Cloud-based co-managed SDWaaS (SD-WAN as a Service) brings this balance to the world of SD-WAN.
Using a global private backbone with Points of Presence (PoPs) across the globe, SDWaaS offers enterprises an SLA, solving that DIY SD-WAN problem off the bat. The cloud-based nature of the model inherently abstracts away many of the complexities of DIY management as well (bye-bye infrastructure patches and upgrades!). Because SDWaaS is a fully converged solution, with security baked-in to the infrastructure, there is no need for many of the time-consuming and costly integrations DIY requires and the managed approach charges for.
Beyond that, the co-managed model enables enterprises to select a management approach that works for them. For example, with SDWaaS either the customer or the provider can complete change requests for the network. That firewall request that may have taken days with a traditional MSP? You can knock it out in minutes.
Further, this co-managed SDWaaS model is highly scalable. As the infrastructure resides in the cloud, agility goes up. If you need to provision a new site, it can occur in a matter of days as opposed to weeks or months.
Co-managed SD-WAN delivers ideal mix of control and simplicity
It’s rare for an enterprise to operate on either end of the extreme when it comes to WAN connectivity. This means that for the vast majority, DIY SD-WAN and carrier-managed SD-WAN were lacking. Co-managed SD-WAN from an SDWaaS provider makes WAN infrastructure management simpler while allowing organizations to retain control where they see fit. As a result, enterprises are able to benefit from a WAN that is able to meet the demands of modern business (mobile, cloud services, security, etc.) with the required agility.