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Ismael joined the Larson Group as Director of Technology in 2006. Ismael has held numerous positions in the technology field spanning over 23 years
1. In your opinion, how has the SD-WAN landscape evolved over the years? What are some of the advantages of the current technological evolution?
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Advantages of the technological evolution, as it pertains to SD-WAN, is an organization’s ability to source low-cost network providers in the areas where they operate and maintain the same level of control and security provided by traditional providers. Depending on physical locations, traditional network providers have been slower to install and much more expensive due to factors where they may not be the LEC (Local Exchange Carrier). SD-WAN also allows organizations’ IT departments, typically pressed for resources, to scale and respond to rapid business expansion. If organizations require traditional networks for compliance or other preferences, SD-WAN options are still viable as a low cost and “mobile” option to stand up sites quickly in an interim basis. If not primary, most definitely a viable “tool” for delivering fast, secure solutions for the business.
2. What according to you are some of the challenges plaguing SD-WAN and how can they be effectively mitigated?
I believe that the challenges facing SD-WAN have shifted from the traditional perceived challenge of “proof of concept” in the earlier days, to a broader challenge of choosing a hardware/ software flavor that blends into the product lines of other areas of an enterprise technology stack. Today, most vendors handle network resiliency, traffic shaping, QOS (quality of service), and method of failover very nicely and it comes down to HOW an organization’s IT group chooses to configure their network flow. The options for local drain versus data center backhauled applications and other “net routes” are a factor and will be a matter of preference of the engineers in the room when a decision is made to select an SD-WAN vendor. The bigger challenge for IT leaders today will be how a vendor or hardware stack (or managed provider’s choice) will “fit” into all of the other infrastructure tools and chosen application suites. Not that any one vendor will every truly be able to deliver “one pane of glass” for IT, most WiFi Access Point, Route/Switch, Endpoint Security, and MTDR vendors all have a flavor of SD-WAN and usually a preferred partner that will play nice with the SD-WAN devices for a better view of end-to-end network traffic. Whichever SD-WAN solutions is chosen is basically the new combined firewall/routers of the late 80’s and 90’s and must “plug into” an organizations overall security and technology stack if the department is looking beyond just network connectivity. The SD-WAN devices must fit so that visibility options are available by other network applications and monitoring solutions.
“Be sure to consider the organization’s full infrastructure and how your selected SD-WAN hardware and software will integrate with all network devices, security applications, and monitoring solutions”
3. Which are a few technological trends influencing SD-WAN today? What are some of the best practices businesses should adopt today to steer ahead of competitors?
Trends influencing SD-WAN is a convergence of coordination between the company’s network connectivity team and the Security Events and Risk Management Team. Most security applications, both infrastructure and endpoints,must contain the ability to seamlessly integrate with selected SD-WAN provider for analytics, flow monitoring, and other real-time access. After connectivity and network flow is solid, API’s and tight integrations are key for an IT Sec team as real-time threat detection and response to events is no longer a “nice to have”.It is not the most technical answer but, now more than ever a best practice would be for technology leaders,who are in charge of making the SD-WAN decisions, be strong communicators. They must have the ability (or seek training) to be able to speak to the board room and create a pipeline of communication to ensure that business leadership have a basic, yet pointed,overview of security operations and how mature the organization may or may not be at any point in time. While it’s not expected that an organization’s leadership team is fluent in any technology trends, SD-WAN or other, it is important that they know where the company may be strong or where they may need investments. It is also important for ownership, VP , or C-Level employees be involved and even the face of cyber security initiatives with regards to rolling out policies, procedures, and implementing training programs.
4. Do you have any advice for industry veterans or budding entrepreneurs from the SD-WAN space?
Be sure to consider the organization’s full infrastructure and how a SD-WAN will integrate with all network devices, security applications, and monitoring solutions. The argument for an overall scalable and layered approach to security is just as important as the operational effectiveness of the selected SD-WAN flavor. Sometimes an SD-WAN decision can be overwhelming as IT engineering brains start to focus attention to the feature functionality set, QOS, failover, or load balancing. While feature functionality is absolutely important, other factors like contract terms on related solutions, daily toolsets, customizations to network ops, and other NON SD-WAN hardware for which IT teams are trained and comfortable with might be negatively impacted. SD-WAN provider would ideally “play nice” with the IT infrastructure as is currently in place.Another thing to keep in mind is where any new initiatives may surface. As mentioned above, once the organizations cyber security maturity has been accurately evaluated, IT leaders will typically have a host of new boxes on their list that need to be checked “Yes”. To be safe, after evaluating, leaders now must factor in any changes and new security concerns that they plan to add to the environment and how it will integrate. New security opportunities like ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access), network compartmentalization, VLAN’ing, and other over the top security solutions will also have their own preferences on how they interact with SD-WAN from one vendor to the next. If an organization is lucky enough to have unlimited IT security operations budget and are able to forklift their infrastructure for an all-encompassing solution then they have this area covered, otherwise making sure these are covered should remain top of mind for veterans or SD-WAN entrepreneurs today.