This Industry Viewpoint was authored by David W Wang
When talking about cost savings for enterprises or revenue streams for service providers from SD-WAN, we typically focus on existing MPLS service replacement or supplement. Many enterprise clients hope SD-WAN can help them to “pay less for more” of today’s network solutions.
Here I want to challenge this concept or expectation a bit. From a narrow angle, it is true that a client may be able to save some money using SD-WAN to replace MPLS sites, and SD-WAN can also bring about stronger centralized control, network intelligence, and application performance management. But hinging on such savings and benefits in today’s dynamic business environment with digital transformation (DX) underway can quickly become insufficient, because SD-WAN is only part of DX although it can play a glue-like role to piece different solutions together.
An enterprise therefore wants to fully embrace SDN/NFV, cloud, security, IoT, big data, mobility, AI/deep learning as well in their HQ, data center, and branch offices across the country or even globe. In order to achieve all this, an enterprise may very likely end up “paying more for more”, which would also provide a more viable business model for the service providers to pursue.
“Paying more for more” means we have numerous next-gen digital solutions to adopt to better run our business ecosystem and serve customers. Tangibly, an enterprise may see themselves put more investment and budget onto DX which in return will lift their service revenues exponentially to the next level, not even to mention intangibly the tremendous payback in terms of service effectiveness, efficiency, agility, intelligence, scalability, availability and Quality of Service.
Hence in 2019, besides MPLS supplement, we expect SD-WAN can help boost more business cases and growth in the sectors of business broadband service, edge cloud computing, managed cyber-security, and DX training offers.
If to replace the existing MPLS, then a branch site would need two or more broadband Internet access lines, from different ISPs or LTE service providers for redundancy. For MPLS/Internet hybrid solutions, then the site would need one or more broadband Internet services. So suddenly we start to see business Internet or broadband access lines in hot demand.
We used to debate the quality gap between business dedicated Internet access (DIA) and so-called broadband solutions like DSL or cable modem solutions, but good news is that now with FTTx solutions widely being deployed into the business market as well, the quality concern about broadband already becomes insignificant while the fiber broadband can go way cheaper than a legacy DIA.
In the past 5 - 8 years, out of the global Internet subscribers for both residential and business sectors, business users only took about 15% of the pie. But starting from late 2018, we expect the global business Internet or broadband subscription to double or even triple, the bandwidth in demand per line going around 50 –150mbps, with SD-WAN deployment and cloud access as the major drivers.
SD-WAN’s capability of application flow transit and routing segmentation is enabling the boom of edge cloud computing, because enterprises now can easily decide and choose which traffic needs being routed to the nearby edge cloud for fast processing, and which going back to the central cloud for deep treatment with less sensitivity to latency and jitter. The global edge computing market size by 2025 is initializing up to $3.25 billion, but expanding at a phenomenal CAGR of 41.0% according to Grand View Research, Inc.
For next-gen networking, security becomes an integrated or embedded must in the front, vs. being added up afterwards. Different from the traditional linear and central gateway security architecture, now we have diverse and distributed security issues and measures to address, such as end user authentication, branch office firewall, network DDoS, data center IDS/IPS systems, cloud web and DNS filtering and malware management. On the other hand, SDN/NFV and service chaining make security solutions more available and affordable to both large and SMB clients nowadays.
DX and the 4th Industry Revolution need well trained personnel to make happen. With SDN/NFV. SD-WAN, SD-DC and so on entering mainstream adoption, we can expect massive learning and training demands from enterprises across the globe. For instance, network engineers who know well on CLI to run MPLS now need to learn some Python programming to manage SD-WAN.
Since in the coming 3 - 5 years, we would still be in a technology transitional stage, many firms are expected to retain their employees who know well of their existing IT and network operations meanwhile have them trained for new knowledge and skillset like SDN/NFV, AI/deep learning, etc. Hence it might be a good idea for a service provider, apart from hosting product specific seminars or webinars, to also find some training partners and offer valued-add and discounted in-depth, certification-oriented training packages to clients who are planning to adopt DX.
When an enterprise finds a service provider who can help to design new architectures, transition the legacy solutions, deploy and secure new services, as well as having their employees trained and beefed up for new technologies and skills, that service provider becomes a partner in need and indeed in the DX era.
David W Wang is a telecom/IT business development & solution enablement principal and senior consultant with ITCom Global, LLC, with current focus on next-gen networking, e.g. SD-WAN Go to Market, adoption and deployment models. Mr. Wang is also the author of the brand new book “Software Defined-WAN for the Digital Age” (published in November 2018) , and the 2015 publishing “Cash In On Cloud Computing”. He is based in Washington DC metro and can be contacted at ITComG18@gmail.com