SD-WAN technology offers native monitoring capabilities that can enhance network operations. It’s a major selling point, right up there with hybrid WAN connectivity and direct cloud connectivity, but native SD-WAN monitoring is not a replacement for traditional network monitoring tools.
SD-WAN products typically have a cloud-based controller that offers both visibility and management for the overlay that SD-WAN creates on a company’s physical WAN. Most of the SD-WAN-controller consoles offer reports and dashboards with clear insights into performance by site, by application, and by cloud provider.
This visibility component is essential to an SD-WAN implementation, and the survey found that enterprises list native monitoring as the third most important SD-WAN product requirement. The first two are hybrid-connectivity support and integrated network security. Also, 48 per cent of IT organisations consider improved visibility a top driver of SD-WAN adoption.
Third-party monitoring is essential to SD-WAN
However, 91 per cent of enterprises also monitor or plan to monitor their SD-WAN environments with a supplemental network monitoring tool, and 41 per cent say third-party monitoring is essential to network operations. If SD-WAN offers native monitoring, why are third party tools necessary?
Here’s a clue. Administrators and analysts in network operations centres (NOC) were the least likely to consider third-party monitoring of SD-WAN to be critical to network operations. But network engineers, who typically receive escalated tickets from NOC administrators, were the most likely to think third-party monitoring is critical.
It’s easy to imagine how that plays out. A NOC analyst receives a trouble ticket from a user in a branch office. The analyst looks at the SD-WAN console and sees that certain applications are performing poorly, but, drilling down into the console’s reports, sees no obvious root cause for the problem.
The ticket escalates to a network engineer, who has access to network flow monitoring, BGP monitoring, and synthetic monitoring tools. The reports in the SD-WAN console help direct the troubleshooting, but these other tools are used to find the root cause.
Limitations of native SD-WAN visibility
This leads to another finding from the survey: 65 per cent of WAN managers that are engaged with SD-WAN perceive problems with its native monitoring capability. Nearly a third (30 per cent) say it offers limited or no visibility into the WAN underlay (the MPLS or broadband networks over which the SD-WAN overlay is built).
Additionally, 30 per cent said the native monitoring tools offer poor visibility into applications. In other words, perhaps their application intelligence is based on ports and protocols, rather thanLayer 7 application signatures. Or perhaps their Layer 7 application-signature library is too narrow, providing visibility into only the most popular applications.
Data-collection granularity in native SD-WAN monitoring is a significant problem for 29 per cent of IT organisations. In this case, the intervals between data collection are too long, and if a network manager tries to reduce those intervals, overall network performance might degrade.
Headaches of integrating third-party monitoring
Given these limitations, it’s no surprise that enterprises require third-party monitoring. Unfortunately, implementation requires some work. Many SD-WAN products are proprietary. They don’t always support network data standards like SNMP and IPFIX. And if they do, their implementations can be problematic.
Most network-monitoring vendors have integrated their products with some SD-WAN products. There are a lot of vendors out there, so it’s not safe for a network team to assume their current monitoring vendor is going to support a given SD-WAN product.
All of this adds up to potential headaches. The research found that only 48 per cent of WAN managers are satisfied with third-party monitoring of SD-WAN. In fact, monitoring satisfaction often correlated with a willingness to buy new monitoring tools. Keep this in mind as you’re planning an SD-WAN solution.