As the SD-WAN market grows — and grows, and grows, and grows — there have been many predictions as to what the next iteration of the technology will bring.
But first, an introduction.
QOS is a managed network service provider that mainly works in the SD-WAN space. It first picked up on SD-WAN four or five years ago, says Cittadino, and saw an opportunity to do something differently. “A lot of people want to sell it, there’s a lot of market hype around it, so what we provide on a go-to-market strategy is a faster route to market for service providers and for larger providers out there that are looking to enable their clients with other solutions,” he said.
They provide augments to other OEM platforms to get them to market quicker and work with larger master agent channels to get SD-WAN into the hands of the customer.
While QOS installs, monitors, and operationalizes the SD-WAN like other managed providers, it also developed an integration suite that allows the provider to integrate with common IP operations platforms such as ServiceNow and Splunk.
Currently, QOS leverages VeloCloud (now under the VMware wing) as its primary SD-WAN platform. Cittadino said it is looking to expand this in the future. “VeloCloud solves a good need for the transactional retail market, it solves the need for an upstream play if you’re looking at multi-cloud infrastructure, software-defined data center, and how to blend that strategy through the three of them,” he said.
However, going forward he sees the need for a “next-gen play” that is globalized, integrates security, and has more WAN optimization and selective routing capabilities.
QOS also has a different deployment model. It uses an automated software suite and toolset to automate a deployment “from cradle to grave,” Cittadino explained, and it relies on integrations in ServiceNow to operationalize the software. This allows the provider to configure the device, run an automated health check, and ship it out. According to Cittadino, this method is what allowed QOS to deploy more than 1,000 VeloCloud SD-WAN units in under 48 hours.
Cittadino claims the company will do more than $20 million per year in SD-WAN sales alone, representing a 3-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1,450%. “We are beating the market in our growth rate, which is exciting,” Cittadino said.
One of the most talked about aspects in the SD-WAN market is the universal CPE (uCPE). Last August, IHS Markit projected in its “uCPE Hardware Biannual Report” that this market would increase from $7.7 million in 2017, to $1.02 billion in 2022 — and QOS is jumping in.
“We’ve been in stealth mode developing our own uCPE now for about of year,” Cittadino said. “We’ve deployed a couple with some of our biggest customers and said ‘hey go play with this and tell us what you like.” He added that “uCPE is going to be the next step.”
While cost remains a perceived barrier, Cittadino says that with time (and more applications) this will change. It’s more expensive when looking at running just one application on the uCPE, “but when we look at the economies at scale and the [return on investment] when you start to run three to five to seven applications on it, the cost really starts to come down a bit.”
What he predicts is that as uCPE enables enterprises to consolidate what they do, moves closer to real-time compute, and there is access to better sensors and beacons for IoT, it will become much more cost effective.
“While I believe the unit economics today are pretty expensive, they’re being compared against SD-WAN, which is probably not a fair comparison,” Cittadino said. “But I believe that as the technologies progress: wireless gets better, 5G comes out, IoT becomes a little bit more available with more sensors and more advancement there; it will start to become more of a necessity to have a more capable edge footprint.”
Another area that SD-WAN has started and will continue to benefit from is automation and AI. SD-WAN has already given enterprises more access to better data, which means that there’s something for AI to analyze, Cittadino said.
“I think AI is going to be a huge piece to the edge, not only for problem management, or kind of the tactical edge management, I think AI is really going to start to come up as we pull a tremendous amount of data out of the WAN where a lot of this lives and we can analyze the data, kind of pair it down and use that data to have a better edge-connected experience,” he said.
It will also lead to a more responsive SD-WAN. By using the intelligence from the WAN, its routes, and how customers are routing, vendors will be able to train the device to make better decisions by itself.
But how long until this is completely applicable? “I think we’re seven years away from AI or so. uCPE first, that will allow us to get a lot more functionality, the ROI model will change and then AI will soon follow right in those footsteps,” said Cittadino.
Outside of AI and uCPE, Cittadino also sees how 5G could impact SD-WAN.
“I think that’s going to change the way things work a lot because that’s going to isolate out a lot of carrier services,” he said. “So SD-WAN will change a little bit from remediation more into how do we connect to the world.”
Service providers have already begun to implement 5G, even though 5G is still only trickling into the market. This February, Cisco partnered with Verizon to add 5G mobile access and VMware announced a similar partnership with AT&T. And this month, managed service provider Expereo added 5G access to its SD-WAN offering.
“The telcos view SD-WAN as a key way to ensure various traffic types are automatically steered to the appropriate links. It can also guarantee IoT traffic is prioritized over 5G, and other applications are automatically routed over broadband,” he said.