Over the last several years we have seen the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) market grow significantly. Seeking to bring the world of software defined networking (SDN) to the WAN, SD-WAN utilises intelligent, application-aware software to route traffic over any combination of network transport in alignment with specific business and IT policies. This liberates enterprises’ from exclusive reliance on costly multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) links for multi-site connectivity, and instead, take a hybrid approach, combining MPLS with broadband connectivity. In fact, IDC predicts that by 2020, the SD-WAN market will reach $6USD billion, with a CAGR of 93 percent from 2016 to 2020. The ability to ensure peak application performance irrespective of the underlying transport, and control branch-site routing policies remotely, offers enterprises with highly distributed branch locations tangible business benefit.
Some organisations with small to medium-sized networks across tens of locations, however, can find deploying an SD-WAN challenging. For large, geographically distributed enterprises, the complexity of procuring and managing the number of broadband providers required to deploy a large-scale SD-WAN can be extremely high, making the shift challenging as well.
Enterprises are subsequently turning toward service providers for managed SD-WAN services to deliver a turnkey SD-WAN solution. Managed SD-WAN services proactively monitor and manage network and infrastructure elements, as well as customer premise equipment, taking away all of the stress and time that can be associated with deploying and managing an SD-WAN. Whether they are a network service provider (NSP) that does or doesn’t have their own underlying infrastructure; a value-added reseller; a managed service provider (MSP); or a systems integrator providing managed services over network services that may have been purchased wholesale, managed SD-WAN services help businesses simplify and manage their global WAN requirements.
Service provider managed services are using SD-WAN solutions to extend managed WAN services with service level agreements (SLAs) to branch office locations that are not always accessible with existing MPLS circuits. They do this by leveraging ubiquitous broadband connectivity to each site. As a result, managed SD-WAN services present service providers with new revenue opportunities that extend beyond their own physical footprint. Indeed, IDC predicts that the managed SD-WAN service market will reach $2.3USD billion by 2020, therefore it’s no surprise that large incumbent providers are increasingly embracing the shift from MPLS to broadband. Managed SD-WAN services help service providers increase profitability while accommodating evolving enterprise requirements for more agile and flexible WAN services that include increased use of broadband and hosted cloud services.
Service provider opportunities
By deploying SD-WAN as a next-generation managed services platform, service providers can implement more intelligence and logic through software vs. hardware. This greatly increases flexibility and automation as it is faster to reprogramme network appliance software centrally than it is to procure and install hardware locally. An SD-WAN software abstraction management and multi-tenant orchestration system enables service providers to dynamically set up and manage all branch office WAN connections for enterprise clients with zero touch provisioning and without requiring dedicated on premise teams of expensive staff. It also seamlessly integrates with customer billing systems.
This capability is very important to service providers because it triggers considerable deployment and managed service advantages. Firstly, the intelligence can be distributed among the branch devices, the service provider edge, and the cloud as it’s appropriate for the deployment and use case. Secondly, a managed SD-WAN service enhances reliability and security of network traffic over internet broadband links, which allows service providers to route a greater percentage of their network traffic through lower cost WAN services such as public broadband. Thirdly, service providers can rapidly expand their geographic footprint out of region, creating new revenue opportunities without incurring significant capital expenditure (CAPEX) for CPE router infrastructure expansion.
The reality for both managed service providers and geographically distributed enterprises with large numbers of branch offices is that the benefits of moving to a managed SD-WAN model are clear. It would be wise for companies with 100 or more locations that want to move to SD-WAN, but are worried about the complexity of finding and maintaining a relationship with 10, 20, 30 or more broadband providers, to consider a managed service provider. Indeed, they will realize the financial and business benefits of the technology shift, without the associated risks.
Over the course of the year, service providers will navigate and evaluate a range of SD-WAN technologies, selecting solutions that tightly align with their business objectives and requirements. Gartner predicts that SD-WAN adoption will reach $1.3USD billion through 2021 as businesses increasingly look for help when shifting to a software defined WAN, and as more managed service providers offer simplified SD-WAN models, this adoption will become much more realistic.
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