SD-WAN Gets Platform Status at MEF

Smart City 3 WAN

By: R. Scott Raynovich

LOS ANGELES -- MEF19 -- A variety of service providers and technology suppliers seem to have reached consensus -- software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) is now the platform of the future for deploying and managing new enterprise network services.

By my count, SD-WAN featured in 80% of the content of this conference, which is focused on service-provider technology. And it's a hot topic at the MEF, which has released services definitions in MEF 3.0. I heard some folks in the hallways arguing that it was overkill, as SD-WAN seemed to push aside massively hyped topics such as 5G and edge computing.

But there's a reason everybody is talking it. SD-WAN is here and now. Customers are interested in buying the technology to solve real-world problems. As Futuriom's most recent research shows, enterprises are actively looking at purchasing SD-WAN services, with 65% of 121 enterprise managers surveyed saying they want to purchase an SD-WAN managed service in the next 24 months. The bottom line? SD-WAN is a great success story, while the jury is out on topics such as network function virtualization (NFV).

Q3 Purchase intent SD WAN

Futuriom predicted this would happen years ago, but that's okay if everybody else took a while. It's nice to see ratification from the leading global service providers in the world, including speakers from companies such as AT&T, Orange, Microsoft, Tata Communications, Sparkle, Verizon, and many others.

It's About Dynamic Services

More importantly, it looks like SD-WAN is no passing fad. The large global service providers, cloud operators, and technology vendors here said the technology has staying power because it can become a key networking platform to deliver just about any service at the customer edge.

Years ago, the initial discussion about SD-WAN was about saving costs in bandwidth and operations on WANs. Now the discussion is about how SD-WAN can be used to link to dynamic multi-cloud services, provide a launching point for a portfolio of managed security services, and give customers more control over managing all of their networks.

"The key is that there is value to the customer, said Eric Barrett, Senior Director, Network Product Management, CenturyLink. "All of [the customers] are using cloud-based applications. Every department is adding applications in the department. Having a centralized access and providing IP-VPN and being able to use multiple services off of SD-WAN is important. You are going to see more and more expansion."

Solving Enterprise Network Challenges

Bob Victor, Senior Vice President of Product Management, Comcast Business, said SD-WAN helps solve enterprise networking challenges via the following important functions:

  • Providing quality of service (QoS) and network segmentation. SD-WAN can create HOV lanes and separate consumer traffic such as Netflix from mission-critical business traffic such as executive videoconferencing.
  • Facilitating centralized visibility and management for hybrid networks.
  • Providing a network security platform.
  • Facilitating cost savings on both operational and bandwidth costs.

Satya Parimi, Group Vice President with Enterprise Data Products and Smart Cities for Spectrum Enterprise, said one of SD-WAN's key attributes is as a tool to enable dynamic provisioning of services by the customer. They can use that with a customer portal and a universal Customer Premises Equipment (CPE).

"These are all real-world problems that enterprise have to deal with," Parimi said. "Using dynamic services with orchestration and AI/analytics."

The excitement about SD-WAN is clear. But it also points out that some of the other key deep technical work in the service provider market -- such as close-loop automation through software-defined networking (SDN) in the core of the network -- can now be connected with SD-WAN to improve the overall function of the networks. In other words, SD-WAN may serve as an important catalyst to enable other network virtualization and automation technologies.

(Futuriom launched the SD-WAN Managed Service survey in the summer of 2019 to get the lowdown on what is driving the SD-WAN Managed Services market and what end users find attractive about SD-WAN services. You can see the full report here [subscription required]).