This Industry Viewpoint was contributed by David W Wang
While SD-WAN is definitely part of DX from the standpoint of networking, bandwidth, and connectivity, DX also has to cover the firm’s strategy for cloud, data center, security, IoT, mobility, Big Data, etc. Enterprises would expect a service vendor they sign on can fit in with their strategic direction. Currently we see four major driving forces of SD-WAN deployment: telecom carriers, pure-play SD-WAN vendors, system integrators, and cable operators.
But all these four players also face some drawbacks when trying to expand their SD-WAN customer base and market. Most telecom carriers need to cope with the tradeoff between their legacy WAN like MPLS revenue erosion and new SD-WAN offering, and as the result they have to pace themselves in rolling out SD-WAN. Pure-play SD-WAN vendors such as Silver Peak, Talari, Versa, etc. in the post Cisco-Viptela and VMWare-VeloCloud acquisition period, may find tougher to win stand-alone SD-WAN deals from enterprises who have to take their grand and comprehensive DX strategy into consideration. For the SIs and cable operators, although they do not have legacy network burdens to shoulder as the carriers do, enterprises may feel less confident on their network connectivity expertise and future fit for technology evolutions.
Hence SD-WAN definitely needs some even stronger value proposition for the market, must deliver more comprehensive and smarter solution bundles to enterprises, and in return can bring greater revenue and margin to the solution vendors themselves. Some bundling efforts like SD-WAN with multi-cloud access, SD-WAN with enhanced security portfolio are already underway and there are more new fronts that can be explored.
One promising approach can be the bundling of SD-WAN with data center services. Some may say the SD-WAN - cloud bundle already means data center in the play because cloud is hosted from data centers. True but the fast growing distributed and intelligent services like IoT, mobility and edge computing are paving way for new SD-WAN and data center bundling opportunities.
To be more specific, these new opportunities lie more with the so called micro-modular data centers (MMDC), which is prefabricated and combines IT and supporting infrastructure in a self-contained unit. MMDC enjoys the clear advantages of flexibility, scalability, cost-effectiveness in handling IoT, mobility and edge computing demand, and can be deployed in a short time at close range with the end users and appliances.
As we know, data centers used to take on big pipelines and bandwidth to link to organization’s headquarters or major hubs, and then from there legacy network service like MPLS would follow the hub and spoke architecture to spread the traffic to the branch offices and sub-divisions. Such centralized data center with hub-spoke network model, although quite expensive to implement, has worked fine in a relatively static and simple WAN environment in the past. But the start of cloud and smart phone era has dramatically changed the WAN model and now the emerging IoT, mobile data, and edge cloud computing businesses are eagerly calling for the next generation IT/networking infrastructure and solutions.
Since starting to host cloud, modern data centers have found they not only must cope with HQs and major hubs, but all the robust branch offices and mobile users as well. SD-WAN 1.0 was born five or six years ago to satisfy such new WAN demand from the branches and has been doing a good job so far. Now it’s time for SD-WAN 2.0 – with advanced application policy-based routing, path conditioning, selection and optimization, security segmentation, and AI/machine learning for performance monitoring and management, etc. to team up with MMDC to better serve enterprises with IoT, mobility and edge computing needs.
MMDC cares a lot about the capabilities to serve branches, SOHOs, mobile users, remote sites which in a lot of cases must make use of the existing access facilities such as DSL, T1, Wi-Fi/LTE. MMDC requires a reliable, scalable, secure, underlay agnostic, cost effective and SLA back WAN solution to traverse all the edge traffic back and forth and work effectively with the universal CPEs on the client’s premise. Apparently legacy WAN solution like MPLS can’t fulfill such missions well, instead SD-WAN would make a great fit.
From SD-WAN’s angle, since in many cases it uses the existing broadband infrastructure as the underlay, it needs the service hub or data center to get closer to the end users or appliances in service so as to minimize the underlay network latency, jitter, and packet loss, and honor the SLA. MMDC, or call it a portable data center, would make a great partner in this regard.
Finally, from the end user and appliance perspective, IoT, mobility and edge computing often bring about the economy of scale and lead time issues. Such traffic profile is about low-mid bandwidth, fast access, processing, and response, security and industry policy compliant, anywhere and anytime, which means we need some bundled solution very flexible and scalable to make the business model work. Often for such services, it doesn’t make sense to spend big fund and long time in building up a classical brick and mortar data center and hardware centric network.
SD-WAN and MMDC can make a great bundle in handling the trendy distributed IT services and boost the deployment of both solutions in today’s market.
David W Wang is a telecom/IT business development principal and senior consultant with ITCom Global, LLC based in Washington DC metro. Mr. Wang is also the author of the new book “Software Defined-Wan for the Digital Age” , and the 2015 publishing “Cash In On Cloud Computing”, and he can be contacted at ITComG18@gmail.com