A rapidly emerging technology, software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) both disrupts and complements today’s traditional static WANs by combining programmability and commercial off-the-shelf hardware to deliver cost-effective, highly elastic alternatives to today’s static MPLS WANs. The goal: To virtualize network hardware and services in order to make their operations more flexible and agile. However, as with many emerging technologies, there are pros and cons to adoption.
Moving on from traditional WANs
Traditional static WANs are built on single-purpose physical devices, and fixed circuits, offering enterprises guaranteed performance, reliability, and control. Traditional WANs have been mainstays of the telco world for decades, yet as customer requirements become more complicated, they fall short on flexibility. Due to the growing demand for enterprise, Internet of things (IoT), and data center connectivity, service providers are faced with increased operational costs in order to provision new or changed WAN services. The sheer volume of equipment, as well as the manual processes required to conduct moves, adds, and changes, make static WANs complex and expensive for both service providers and customers.
While traditional static WANs may have governed wide area networking in the past, they are now crossing the mature technology threshold from ‘highly useful, modern approach’ to ‘complex and expensive legacy approach.’ Despite the potential risks that often come with the adoption of emerging technologies, in the case of the static WAN, service providers and enterprises may have more to lose by not transitioning to an alternative approach.
What does SD-WAN Bring to the Table?
The adoption of SD-WAN, as is the case with most virtual functions, promises to reduce capex and opex for both service providers and enterprises. This is thanks to SD-WAN’s ability to deploy services using centralized, programmable software and commodity hardware. Furthermore, some of the most attractive features that SD-WAN has to offer are its automatic provisioning capabilities, flexible transport options, and increased security capabilities – important to any service, but especially so for emerging IoT services where human intervention is cost-prohibitive.
At this stage, many enterprises are hesitant to fully adopt SD-WAN technology; not only is it new, but SD-WAN requires a different body of knowledge to support and presents operators with a cultural learning curve. Additionally, SD-WAN forces operators to address the question: Why transition away from the guaranteed performance (and predictable profits) of MPLS?
Service providers and enterprises can establish a greenfield SD-WAN network to run in parallel to their existing private MPLS networks in order to support differing classes of service, to offer real-time optimization, and as a back-up for the foreseeable future.
Service Intelligence to the Rescue
Service Intelligence offers the capabilities needed to address the complex needs of enterprise customers while bridging the gap between physical and virtual infrastructure to deliver real-time orchestrated service assurance.
Moving to cloud services presents service providers with new revenue opportunities around SD-WANs. With the right provisioning and orchestration tools, service providers can support new, highly elastic IoT, VPN, and cloud computing services, as well as offer their customers network as a service (NaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and data center interconnect (DCI).
As virtualization continues to disrupt traditional data services. SD-WAN has quickly emerged as a winning answer to the challenges posed by traditional static WANs in a rapidly changing, dynamic business environment. SD-WANs are disrupting the way enterprise networks are managed and delivered – and are a tremendous opportunity for carriers as well.