The Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) market is a burgeoning one with technology largely built out of necessity due to the lack of agility of carriers to respond to our growing customer and business needs. Given what may seem like a conflict of interest, carriers have begun adopting the very same technologies we are trying to leverage to overcome their lack of responsiveness and flexibility. While also in the same breath a number of carriers have been driving the adoption of and helping improve on the innovation of SD-WAN providers.
The primary question being asked surrounds what is the motivation for a carrier to do adopt technologies which largely are intending to drive business away from them to often inexpensive solutions? To appropriately answer that it behooves us to discuss what some of the challenges businesses are facing which is steering them towards SD-WAN in the first place.
While not an exhaustive list the key drivers pushing CIOs towards SD-WAN adoption are Financial, Flexibility and Freedom. Stressed by business financial challenges, IT budgets are constantly being constrained by flat costs year over year while bandwidth requirements continue to increase. This financial discussion is amplified by the question, “Why is it I can’t do with a $500 circuit what people can do at home over a $50 circuit?”. As applications continue to no longer exclusively reside in the data center and are being delivered over the Internet or on a public cloud like AWS or Azure, this constraint has never been felt so much as it is today.
With business traffic like CRM applications such as Salesforce or email delivered by Microsoft Office 365, never before have core business critical assets lived wholly off-premises. Without the advent of SD-WAN solutions it would be corporate malfeasance to adopt consumer grade circuits with ill-defined SLAs and questionable availability.
The innovation being driven by SD-WAN now affords us the flexibility to adopt a combination of Higher Cost 5-9’s circuits, lower cost 2-9’s and even lowest-cost circuits which offer massive bandwidth; allowing the business to choose the transport or SLA as the application demands.
Whether this involves dynamically building Secure Site-to-Site VPN tunnels prioritized between sites for critical internal applications, or securely passing developer access to an application hosted in AWS, or even as far down as end-user bypassing the MPLS circuit out the lowest cost broadband provider for YouTube or Facebook. The flexibility and security of a solution like this provides unprecedented access in the Enterprise all while reducing the costs of WAN services and providing upwards to a 10X improvement in bandwidth.
This technology and its evolutions truly provide the enterprise and the datacenter freedom from constraints of yesterday. Freedom from waiting 90 days for a carrier to stand up a new circuit. Freedom from being locked into a specific carrier in order to maintain a relationship into an existing MPLS circuit. Freedom to scale as your applications and business demands without requiring planning months in advance and lock-in of contracts for years on end. This provides you the freedom to access your services in the most efficient way possible, while also providing application intelligence and visibility.
If this is the panacea that it seems to be though, why isn’t everyone adopting it, and furthermore, why are carriers going this direction? This will cannibalize their business, won’t it?
On the contrary this is why carriers have been adopting SD-WAN with such zeal and helping to be a part of the conversation and act as leaders in this space. Carriers face the same challenges we suffer when we go to purchase or lease circuits. Delivery is slow, availability is constrained, the bandwidth isn’t there or has to be rationed in shared circuits. With their headstrong adoption, you’ll start to see carriers be able to be more agile and flexible than ever before. Furthermore, you will see a more complete set of offerings from them including access to MPLS, Broadband, 4G/LTE and offering you and me turnkey SD-WAN solutions as a service.
The story of carriers choosing to adopt SD-WAN as a way to accelerate their business and their customers is best compared to the continuing growth and expansion of Cloud Service providers today. Wide Area Networking as we know it will be further commoditized making carrier provided SD-WAN solutions the de facto standard in the coming years. This story doesn’t end here, and is far from Vaporware. One of the largest carriers in the industry Verizon as of 2016 has been selling a hosted SD-WAN service powered by SD-WAN provider Viptela.
The future is here and Verizon and Viptela are changing the way Transport is consumed.