4 SD-WAN Challenges and Issues (and How to Address Them)

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Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) is an approach to networking that allows network administrators to centrally manage increasingly complex enterprise networks using cloud-based software.

The SD-WAN market is expected to hit $13.7 billion by 2026, with large enterprises constituting the highest share of customers using SD-WAN.

While SD-WAN enables companies to lessen the constraints of traditional WAN services and the inefficiencies that come with them, it is still riddled with some challenges. Here is a deep dive into some of these challenges and how you can address them.

Top SD-WAN challenges and issues

Some of the top challenges enterprises encounter when trying to deploy SD-WAN include picking the right vendor, issues with cloud connectivity, difficult troubleshooting, and security concerns. Here are some suggestions on how to deal with each of those problems.

Picking the right vendor 

Many organizations face the challenge of integrating the right SD-WAN solutions with their existing network infrastructure. Each vendor claims their product can revolutionize WAN services and bring about digital transformation in enterprises. Given this situation, it becomes more difficult to cut through the noise and select the right vendor. 

  • To address this issue, IT teams should understand their network posture in order to determine which vendor can best deliver the required services.
  • Efforts should be made to conduct thorough research into the top SD-WAN providers and vendors in the market to understand their service offerings and how they fit the bill.

Cloud connectivity issues

Cloud connectivity can be an issue in SD-WAN, especially when organizations have multiple cloud-based applications and services that need reliable and efficient access. Many traditional WAN architectures might not be optimized for direct cloud connectivity, and this often leads to performance bottlenecks, increased latency, and potential data security concerns.

  • To resolve this issue and improve cloud connectivity in SD-WAN, organizations should implement SD-WAN solutions that have application-aware routing capabilities for intelligent routing decisions based on the specific needs of different cloud applications.
  • Configure WAN policies for Dynamic Path Selection (DPS). This helps to automatically select the best path for cloud-bound traffic based on real-time conditions, such as available bandwidth, latency level, and packet loss.

Difficult troubleshooting

Troubleshooting in SD-WAN is very challenging due to its complex configurations. For instance, if a user is experiencing lag and slowness in an application, it’s difficult to pinpoint whether the cause is network-related, fault in deployment, lack of system resources, or something else.

Moreover, different vendors offer SD-WAN solutions with varying architectures, making troubleshooting vendor-specific implementations an issue. Distinguishing between application-specific performance problems and underlying network issues further complicates the process.

  • To address this, try to install monitoring agents in all your network locations, as this will help collect the data you need to troubleshoot your SD-WAN network.
  • Go for an SD-WAN provider that offers centralized management and configuration.
  • Develop and follow standardized troubleshooting procedures for different types of issues.

Security concerns

There is a concern about the potential loss of visibility in SD-WAN due to its dynamically distributed traffic. This dynamic nature and the need for direct internet access at branch locations can create security vulnerabilities if not properly configured and monitored.

  • One of the ways to address this challenge is to deploy SD-WAN alongside a secure access service edge (SASE).
  • Employ network segmentation to separate critical assets and sensitive data from the rest of the network.
  •  IT teams should consider only SD-WAN solutions with adequate endpoint security and configuration features.
  • Deploy a packet-filtering firewall to filter network traffic and block any packets that carry malicious files or code.

General best practices for addressing SD-WAN issues

To ensure the smooth running of SD-WAN, it is essential to follow some general best practices that can address potential issues. These include conducting network evaluations, initiating a pilot deployment, taking a security-first approach, and continually monitoring and analyzing the results.

Conduct network evaluation

Before deploying SD-WAN, carry out a thorough assessment of your existing network infrastructure. Things like bandwidth requirements, application performance needs, and traffic patterns should be thoroughly checked to ensure the optimal performance of the SD-WAN.

Conducting this assessment will help you design a customized SD-WAN solution that meets your organization’s specific needs and addresses potential bottlenecks.

Consider a pilot deployment

Consider starting with a pilot deployment of SD-WAN in a limited number of locations before implementing it across the entire network. This allows you to test the solution in a controlled environment, identify any unforeseen challenges, and make necessary adjustments before scaling up.

Security-first approach

Integrate security measures into your SD-WAN deployment from the outset. Ensure that the selected SD-WAN solution offers robust security features and supports integration with your existing security infrastructure to ensure efficient network security. Prioritize end-to-end encryption and implement security policies consistently across all sites.

Continuous monitoring and analytics

Deploy network monitoring and analytics tools to gain real-time visibility into your SD-WAN performance. By monitoring key metrics, such as latency, bandwidth utilization, and application performance, you can proactively identify and resolve issues before they impact user experience.

Evaluate vendors critically

Conduct a thorough evaluation of various SD-WAN providers and vendors and their offerings. Choose a reputable vendor with a track record of successful deployments, excellent customer support, and a commitment to standards compliance.

Bottom line: Addressing SD-WAN challenges

SD-WAN is undoubtedly a transformative technology that offers numerous benefits to an organization’s network infrastructure. However, addressing the challenges associated with the solution is essential to ensure a successful SD-WAN deployment and experience.

To address the challenges, organizations should be strategic in choosing the right SD-WAN vendor, and pay attention to their capabilities before investing in the solution.

We reviewed the best SD-WAN providers and vendors to help you find the most effective solution for your organization.

Franklin Okeke
Franklin Okeke
Franklin Okeke is a contributing writer to Enterprise Networking Planet, as well as an author and freelance content writer with over 5 years of experience covering cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and emerging technologies. In addition to pursuing a Master's degree in Cybersecurity & Human Factors from Bournemouth University, Franklin is an entrepreneur with a passion for startups, innovation, and product development. His writing also appears regularly in TechRepublic, ServerWatch, and other leading technology publications.

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