This Industry Viewpoint was contributed by David W Wang
If your organization has learnt about SD-WAN and its benefits and now is thinking seriously on its deployment, then what major options are there on the table that you can pick?
Fundamentally there are three options for SD-WAN deployment: do it yourself (DIY), or purchase it from a managed service provider, or make it a hybrid deployment. Some large enterprises who have sufficient internal IT and networking resources may still prefer to install and manage the services by themselves, and that model is not our focus here.
Mid and small size businesses and organization, on the other hand, are more likely to take on a managed SD-WAN solution from a service provider, or a hybrid deployment that splits the control between the service provider and end user.
Here we want to do some deep diving into this managed SD-WAN service model (including the hybrid flavor), because the end user will again face three options of source: pure-play SD-WAN providers, WAN optimization and virtualization vendors, or telecom carriers and cable operators.
Several pure-play SD-WAN providers, such as CloudGenix, VeloCloud (being acquired by VMWare), Viptela (being acquired by Cisco) and Versa, have emerged from the Silicon Valley and effectively developed and provisioned SD-WAN solutions. Their original solutions, with little legacy service constraints, can deliver flexible network agnostic SD-WAN overlay, high speed and direct cloud connectivity, and high degrees of operational efficiencies via central policy controllers.
Some WAN optimization and virtualization vendors, such as Citrix, Silver Peak, Riverbed, FatPipe Networks, Talari Networks, and Ecessa have moved into the SD-WAN space via a value-added approach. They also offer SD-WAN overlay solutions, rich application policy management, and operational efficiencies via central policy controllers.
Several telecom carriers and cable operators (such as Verizon, AT&T, BT, Orange Business Services, CenturyLink, China Telecom Global, Windstream, Comcast, Charter, etc.) have launched managed SD-WAN services. In most cases the SD-WAN is part of their national or global WAN service portfolio, which provides the mix of SD-WAN as well as traditional solutions such as MPLS or dedicated private lines.
Hence when facing the above offers of SD-WAN deployment, how can your organization make a sound choice?
I recommend three key criteria for your consideration when selecting an SD-WAN deployment: cost, integration, and features & capabilities.
Based on various assessments to date, SD-WAN is poised to save 30-80% of service cost compared to legacy WAN solutions like MPLS. Across this 30-80% saving span, we can say telecom carriers and cable operators is on the left end, WAN optimization and virtualization vendors in the middle, and pure-play SD-WAN providers on the right end.
The reason is simple, for the first and second types of vendors, SD-WAN is positioned as either a value added or new line to their existing network product suite, and the SD-WAN pricing has to burden or share some cost from the legacy service side. As technology is fast evolving and most legacy WAN services are in a flat or declining mode in today’s enterprise market, the general cost base from these vendors will most likely offset some saving advantages SD-WAN brings about.
The pure play providers, on the other hand, only focus on the SD-WAN solution via a network agnostic overlay and cloud-based architecture, without any legacy constraints and mix to worry about, and therefore can often maximize the cost saving in their SD-WAN offer to the end users. Based on my firm’s best practice of SD-WAN deployment over these couple of years, if for example cost savings and direct connectivity of cloud applications are the major objectives of your organization in adopting SD-WAN, then a pure-play provider can easily stand out in the candidate short list.
Integration means if you are already a customer of some WAN optimization and virtualization vendor, or telecom carrier and cable operator, and now they’ve launched SD-WAN as well, then the situation may be an easy “ramp-up” for both sides. Unless you feel to revamp your WAN service for cost savings, or lose confidence in continuing on with the traditional services, picking the incumbent vendor’s offer usually makes a smooth integration between the SD-WAN and existing network services you’ve signed up there. Some pure-play providers may not be that experienced in orchestrating and synchronizing such integrations.
Features & capabilities are no doubt critical for organizations in picking an SD-WAN solution. While most SD-WAN solutions offer good cost savings, fast provisioning, better cloud links, simpler branch operation, optimized service control and security, some clients may look for a SD-WAN package with certain special features such as integration with VoIP, WAN optimization service, advanced security enhancement, IoT, big data and AI capabilities, etc. In such cases, those SD-WAN vendors who can meet these special requirements become more favorable during the selection process.
As for the hybrid approach of the managed SD-WAN services, again it’s mostly about the degrees of control between the services provider and end user. In some cases, some end users, while letting the service provider dealing with anything related to the core network operation and maintenance, may want to handle some “edge customizations” like new site and link expansion, compliance rules, and application access policy on their own. Those vendors who can offer such customized controls to the end users will differentiate themselves from other competitors.
In a nutshell, the right deployment approach or strategy makes a pivotal step in SD-WAN service adoption. Some organizations are also attempting the multi-vendor approach in hope of maximizing the SD-WAN benefits, like for the existing network services they go with the SD-WAN offer from the current telecom carrier, while for some new and global sites expansion, they sign on with a pure-play SD-WAN provider. In 2018, SD-WAN is expected to take mainstream for the US enterprise market. Let’s go for it.
David W Wang is a telecom/IT business development principal and senior consultant with ITCom Global, LLC based in Washington DC metro. In recent years his firm has successfully assisted enterprises and organization of various verticals in adopting and deploying SD-WAN services. Mr. Wang is also the author of the new book “Cash in on Cloud Computing”, and he can be contacted at ITComG18@gmail.com