Top 3 Strategies for Successful SD-WAN Monitoring

by June 5, 2019

Broadcom’s recommendations for overcoming the challenges of SD-WAN management and the recommended strategies to get the full investments out of your software-defined initiatives.

SD-WAN (software defined wide area network) is probably the most successful business adoption of SDN architecture and continuously growing, IDC forecast it to reach $4.5 billion by 2022. As with many new technologies, SD-WAN deployment also comes with new challenges, especially for NetOps team, who are well trained and experts in traditional WAN management but not familiar with this “new” WAN.

Challenges of SD-WAN Management

In my interaction with network operations teams of various enterprises who are adopting SD-WAN, there is a common consensus that though SD-WAN has advantages over an expensive MPLS network, it presents new operational challenges like integrating smoothly with their existing networking monitoring solutions. This concern is very important when you consider that contrary to marketing claims; SD-WAN is not replacing MPLS but actually presents a low cost alternative for some portion of traffic which doesn’t have a mission critical SLA requirement.

Proactively identifying performance issues and a lack of comprehensive network visibility has always been important challenges faced by network professionals. Many network assurance providers share that a well-planned monitoring strategy increases visibility and helps in network diagnostics. SD-WAN or general SDN products, create more virtual components in an existing network thus making it more complex to manage, troubleshoot and triage. With SD-WAN, your applications also become part of network operations due to the factor that this technology allows application aware routing and uses any available transport (dynamic path selection) which satisfies a given SLA.

Recommendations for Successful SD-WAN Monitoring

It is very important to not monitor a new technology just for the sake of it, but to add context to that monitored data while giving business views into the application delivery over your SD-WAN bundles. While there are multiple choices for metrics when it comes SD-WAN monitoring, the following are my top 3 recommendations:

  1. Packet Loss, Jitter and Latency:  These 3 metrics are the de-facto choice when it comes to monitor VPN Tunnels. It is no surprise that most SD-WAN vendors have built-in support for collection and reporting of these metrics. However, modern network monitoring solutions must put a context to these metrics by combining it with application path analysis. NetOps teams need to see into both the tunnels and the applications using those tunnels to determine performance issues and correlate it with business-critical application delivery SLAs. Adding predictive capacity analysis can also strengthen your overall monitoring strategy by letting operations teams know in advance which applications might experience performance degradation due to impending network congestion.
  2. Topology: The basis of any modern network monitoring solution must include end-to-end topology visualization of all network components. There are two types of topologies which are of specific interest for NetOps teams. Traditional physical topology which lays out the underlying connected servers, switches, routers, SD-WAN edge devices, etc. In case of SD-WAN, a flow topology on top of the underlying physical layer will be of great value to operations team allowing them to visualize the path of an application’s traffic. This can also show a path change or link aggregation for more granular monitoring.
  3. Active path testing:  As a proactive measure to reduce performance issues and detect bottlenecks in SD-WAN tunnels, a monitoring solution should also support active path testing. An advantage of active path testing is that it can detect problems outside normal work hours when there is no application traffic. Active path testing should have the ability to emulate real application traffic. If your SD-WAN vendor has built-in support for this feature, then a network monitoring solution should leverage it and correlate the test results with the first two recommendations above.

Additionally, advance monitoring solutions for SD-WAN should also study the behavior of high priority applications with respect to flow path and determine if there is a pattern to it such as specific time of week or how frequently it occurs and use this knowledge to predict anomalies and provide faster root cause analysis and triage.

WEBCAST REPLAY: Did you miss our May 22nd SD-WAN webcast: “DX NetOps: SD-WAN for Minimized Costs and Reliable App Delivery”? To see the latest SD-WAN monitoring enhancements for Cisco (Viptela) and Versa SD-WAN…Watch the replay here.