Find the Right SD-WAN Vendor by Building the Perfect RFP
SD-WAN is more than just a buzzword now: It's a product segment reaching a maturity inflection point. A growing number of vendors are offering on-premise, SaaS, and managed services options and many enterprises large and small are deploying SD-WANs for real-world use.
But that means there's a glut of offerings in the marketplace, with varying capabilities and value propositions, and trying to choose the right vendor can be overwhelming and lead to analysis paralysis.
As a public service, Riverbed is here to help you cut through the clutter and make an informed decision, regardless of which vendor you choose in the end. We've got two great resources for you:
- "Four Factors for Evaluating SD-WAN Vendors," an on-demand webinar that outlines what you should be looking for when you're making your choice
- "How to Create an RFP for SD-WAN Solutions," a guide that you can cut and paste from to help you create your own request for proposals to send to SD-WAN vendors
Together, these resources will guide your journey, helping you figure out what questions to ask, in a broad-based and vendor-neutral way that will allow you to reach the best decision for you.
RFP vs. RFI
Our how-to guide has "RFP" in the name, but it could just as well be used to put together a request for information (RFI). What's the difference? While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, an RFI is more educational, with broader questions used earlier in the process.
An RFP, by contrast, is used to winnow down your short list of finalist vendors. You'll want to ask detailed questions in an RFP, but it's tough to come up with those questions until you’ve gone through the initial info-gathering stage. And because different vendors take different approaches to SD-WAN, you’ll need to take a deeper look at how they architect, provision, manage, and secure their solutions.
Bring order to chaos
Like many emerging markets, the SD-WAN segment has become quite popular — which can translate to crowded and confusing for customers. Many vendors tout the same high-level claims: Flexibility! Agility! Cost-effectiveness! — but their differing philosophies will mean real differences when it comes to deployment and ongoing management.
The goals of the webinar and the RFP guide are to get beyond these buzzwords into some very specific questions that will help you guide your buying process.
Start with the webinar…
The "Four Factors for Evaluating SD-WAN Vendors" webinar offers a high-level process and key consideration for making decisions, factoring in people, process, and technology. After a quick review of the business factors that drive SD-WAN decisions, the webinar outlines four important factors to consider:
- Determining the architecture that best meets your needs (for example, traditional MPLS, hybrid WAN, direct-to-network, unified network fabric across WAN, wired and wireless LAN, and cloud)
- Ensuring the overall performance and availability of your SD-WAN
- Assessing security and risk
- Understanding each offering's ease of provisioning and orchestration
…Then review the RFP guide
You'll be able to download "How to Create an RFP for SD-WAN Solutions" directly from the webinar or you can register and download it separately. This document provides a mock RFP that you can adapt to your own needs. With it, you can build an RFP or RFI that you can send to potential vendors to get the information you need on a number of topics:
- Provide your own context. As the guide explains, your RFP should include a section with background on your company, business objectives, project goals, timeframes, IT systems, and architecture. Don’t forget to provide details on your remote WAN end points, current WAN, and current network security so the vendor can address your concerns specifically.
- Open-ended questions that go beyond yes and no. An RFP that just asks for a checklist of technical features and supported protocols won't be that illuminating — after all, in a fast-moving market, most vendors will add support for technical features in high demand relatively frequently. But vendors can't change their architectural approach or ease of use in just a few months. Our sample RFP questions will help you ensure that their approach matches your needs.
- Security considerations. Direct internet access and IoT initiatives are leading companies to rethink how they approach network security. It’s worth considering how each SD-WAN vendor enables effective security, not only to the WAN links but up to cloud locations and down to the LAN/Wi-Fi, mobile users, and IoT devices.
- Integrate with brownfield environments. In the real world, most companies don't rearchitect their entire network around an SD-WAN right away. You want a vendor who aims to help not just with the end game, but with that transition.
- Key use cases: Unified network fabrics and cloud-first companies. Many definitions of SD-WAN exist in the market, mixing fundamentally different use cases. If you're implementing a hybrid LAN/WAN infrastructure or aiming for a cloud-first model, you'll have differing needs, and our RFP guide will help you ask the right questions.
- Nontechnical considerations. A complex solution like an SD-WAN isn't something you just plug in and forget about. You'll want to know what kind of support and consulting services and partner ecosystem (especially for security) your vendor offers.
Get answers with the right questions
WANs are about so much more than just moving bits from point A to point B at a low cost. With these resources, we aim to help you understand the bigger picture. Get started with the webinar and download the RFP guide today.