This Industry Viewpoint was contributed by David W Wang
SD-WAN will boom in next two year. Based on the survey result unveiled at Light Reading's Executive Summit in Rome early this month, SD-WAN technology is either critical or important for telecom operators looking to automate their operations and reduce service costs, according to 84% of telco respondents to this new survey.
Some two-thirds of the survey participants deem wide-scale SD-WAN rollouts will occur over the next 24 months. For enterprise customers to take on and adopt SD-WAN deployment, however, simplifying the introduction of new services has emerged as the most critical business challenge.
Some may get puzzled by this challenge since the trademark or major selling points of SD-WAN have been touted as simpler, faster and more agile provisioning and deployment process, and the new service is supposed to be much easier to manage than legacy WAN solutions like MPLS.
Here’s the difference: technology wise, it’s true that SD-WAN is much thinner and less complex than legacy WAN solutions because it detaches network control plane from the data plane and centralizes the network management functions, or in other words reduces the network management overhead. But for many enterprise end users, from the SD-WAN adoption, deployment and service operation perspectives, it may become a different story and a headache - more complicated than like just taking on an MPLS service.
Here are a few typical concerns with regards to SD-WAN deployment and operation:
First, for many enterprises, the SD-WAN deployment won’t be a green field type, which means the new SD-WAN solution will need to inter-operate with legacy systems and devices. Nowadays some vendors provide mechanisms for more seamless integration, while some don’t and make it a barrier for the SD-WAN adoption. Examples include legacy OSS/BSS/LSO and SDN controller synchronization, policy such as QoS control and security assurance integration, etc.
Second, while SD-WAN can use a variety of low cost circuits instead of, or in addition to MPLS, leading to big savings, better scalability and a much quicker time to market, it may at the same time create the problem of multi-vendor management for the end users. Although many vendors provide a single uniform view of the SD-WAN network, problems may still pop up when issues or troubles need to be diagnosed and pinpointed quickly to a specific vendor’s devices that interface with the SD-WAN devices. This often can post a big challenge to the network trouble management.
Third, while many enterprises understand after adopting SD-WAN, that they will have a hybrid network of broadband Internet and MPLS, the migration will not be as simple as just adding some extra circuits from the Internet. Rather the SD-WAN deployment will lead to the enterprise IT architecture changes consequently in terms of topology, facilities, security, cloud connectivity, applications, storage, network, etc. To some enterprises that consider switching to SD-WAN, how to handle the architecture change and transition smoothly may become quite a hurdle.
Fourth, walking through the testing process, pilots and full deployments of SD-WAN may be problematic for some enterprises or their branch offices that don’t have in-house IT staff while hiring a 3rd party temporary consultant may not be deemed as reliable. Although some vendors have designed their SD-WAN devices as zero touch and plug-and-play types, it still requires IT expertise and coordination to assure the overall success of the new service adoption.
Finally, the adoption of SD-WAN for many enterprises not only can bring technical and operational changes, but business, financial and organizational nuances and changes as well. Some enterprises may not own the capacity and resources to digest and handle such changes properly. For instance, technical stuff like SDN, NFV, vCPE that enable SD-WAN solutions remain pretty new to many enterprises. All this can make the SD-WAN adoption process quiet difficult too.
These typical concerns and issues listed above on SD-WAN deployment and operation, are strongly calling for value-added turkey solutions from offering strong business case planning and technical training for SD-WAN, handling testing and full deployment on behalf, to knowing well how to orchestra IT architecture changes and system integration, and owning the tool used for network analysis spanning across multi-vendor devices to give a complete picture and reduce troubleshooting time.
From the perspective of a turnkey WAN service provider, SD-WAN’s characteristics of software control and virtualization also provide a great new business platform and model of growth. For instance SD-WAN as a network overlay means there will be much less hardware work or proprietary restrictions involved for the turnkey service providers during the deployment process and they can also add up their own applications such as VoIP or cloud IaaS and SaaS on top of the SD-WAN solution.
In a nutshell, SD-WAN solution sounds sweet but enterprise clients need a turnkey package to get their hands around it. Those vendors, including resellers and brokers, MSPs, ISPs, CSPs and so on, who can provide such one-stop shopping and turnkey SD-WAN deployment and operation solutions, are expected to have big chances to win more business from the enterprise WAN market in 2017 and beyond.
David W Wang is a senior telecom/IT business development consultant based in Washington DC metro and author of the new book “Cash in on Cloud Computing”? David can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org