Making the Switch to SD-WAN? Managed Underlay Network Matters

There are loads of flavors of SD-WAN but procuring an SD-WAN solution that comes with a managed underlay network can save you a ton of pain and suffering.

network underlay nodes
Matt Pinto

Jun 9, 2022


Look, we get it. One of the most exciting aspects of making the switch to an SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) is the fact that it’s an overlay network. Your operations take on new flexibility. There are suddenly loads of options for how things can be optimized and the IT team, if you have one, is geeking out.

But even though the network has been decoupled from the physical infrastructure, i.e. your network underlay, this doesn’t mean the underlay doesn’t matter. In fact, quality underlay circuits are as important as ever with SD-WAN.

Perhaps you’ve already taken this advice to heart and have kept some classic solutions in play, like Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) to supplement your broadband. In that case, you can still fall back on quality-of-service assurances and a certain amount of dedicated bandwidth that ensures your network carries on performing optimally.

So your shiny new virtualized network now runs across various nodes, prioritizing traffic like a boss and ensuring you have the most efficient and responsive service possible.

But what about the underlay?

Where the problem comes in is if you’ve signed a contract with your SD-WAN provider that only requires them to manage the overlay. When your SD-WAN stops working and you trace the issue to your underlay network, suddenly you’re in charge of the messy and complicated task of figuring out what’s going on.

Your organization’s IT team are the ones who need to troubleshoot the issue, identify the source, and report it to your provider. And, as outlined above, if you’re utilizing multiple underlay network providers across different network nodes to optimize efficiency, tracking down the source of the issue can be a truly complex task.

Once your IT team (who are probably a lot less enthusiastic about the whole SD-WAN thing at this point) have identified the issue, they need to report it to the relevant provider. That means logging a ticket, waiting around for a response (which might require follow up), and then waiting until the problem is fixed. With no guarantees on how long anything will take and a lot of annoyed coworkers to deal with until it’s sorted.

If none of that sounds like your idea of a good time, the good news is, it’s all completely unnecessary.

Managed underlay networks

Fortunately, some SD-WAN providers offer a service that includes management of your enterprise’s underlay network. In doing so, they gain a holistic view into your network that ensures that network uptime is higher and that dealing with network issues becomes a more straightforward process.

For example, typically your carrier will have a checklist of steps that they need to run through to understand your problem before they can forward your ticket to the relevant department to fix.

If, however, your SD-WAN underlay is being managed, your SD-WAN provider will have the relevant knowledge to quickly identify the issue themselves and expedite the process. Which means the carrier can get the ticket to the right place faster, and your network issues get resolved in double-quick time.

In addition, having a managed underlay takes care of a lot of general upkeep hassle, allowing you to outsource processes such as procurement (sometimes), installation, configuration, and the day-to-day monitoring needed to keep everything running smoothly. 

Business as usual

At the end of the day, with both underlay and overlay managed, you get to carry on doing what adds value for your business, instead of wasting time and resources troubleshooting your network. Better still, your IT team can go wild with the options and tailor your network to be exactly what you need it to be, secure in the knowledge that making sure it runs smoothly is someone else’s job. So, you know, everybody wins.

Have questions about vetting SD-WAN providers? Reach out to us and we’d be happy to talk you through it!

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