As organizations over the globe increasingly focus on enhancing network performance to provide superior customer experience, enterprise decision-makers are turning to Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) solutions to build networks for their changing business needs. A key consideration for digital businesses today is making sure that networks are agile enough to adjust to evolving business priorities in the application economy.
SD-WAN technology can help organizations configure their enterprise WAN to remove the burden of traffic management from physical infrastructure and transfer it to software to improve network efficiency. In a recent IDG survey, it was found out that 91% of enterprises who used SD-WAN technologies saw increased network speed.
Rohit Mehra, Vice President at Network Infrastructure at IDC, says that this growth is fueled by two reasons. Firstly, traditional enterprise WANs are not meeting the heavy demands of today's digital businesses. And secondly, organizations are very focused on improving the application performance and customer experience through the easier management of various connection types across their WAN. He says:
"SD-WAN continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments of the network infrastructure market, driven by a variety of factors. Combined with the rapid embrace of SD-WAN by leading communications service providers globally, these trends continue to drive deployments of SD-WAN, providing enterprises with dynamic management of hybrid WAN connections and the ability to guarantee high levels of quality of service on a per-application basis."
For most businesses today, the defining question isn't if they will turn to SD-WAN solutions, but rather how and when will they manage its deployment. In this light, SD-WAN managed services have come to the fore as a possible choice that lets enterprises derive the best benefits of SD-WAN and the expertise needed to make the most out of it.
The crux of the earlier question, therefore, lies in whether enterprises will choose to go for managed, DIY, or co-managed SD-WANs. These solutions provide the knowledge required to design, implement, and manage SD-WAN networks while allowing enterprises to regulate visibility and maintain control as desired.
A software-defined wide-area network, or SD-WAN, is a network that is decoupled from its networking hardware, resulting in the formation of a virtualized network overlay. Operators can remotely configure and scale this overlay, which can then span over wide distances.
An SD-WAN is used to connect disparate branch offices to a central hub or to cover several locations in a large area. Because it can be decoupled from its networking hardware, it is much more flexible than other network solutions like MPLS. While MPLS can help you create reliable and secure networks, it is not the best choice to expand the bandwidth at a limited budget. This is where SD-WAN comes in as a viable solution for organizations. Enterprises can layer SD-WAN over the top of an MPLS integrated with low cost broadband and create a hybrid model to solve their network management issues. This hybrid model that combines the best of both technologies can be used to create a reliable network backbone courtesy of the MPLS, while the SD-WAN, on the other hand, can be used to enhance the existing WAN and reduce operational costs by strengthening network management and leveraging cost-effective broadband capabilities.
SD-WANs have many advantages for businesses. The reasons so many companies are increasingly turning to managed SD-WAN solutions are many. The above Frost & Sullivan survey shows that enterprises rely on managed SD-WANs because:
would go for DIY SD-WANs
would prefer co-managed SD-WAN deployment
would favor a fully managed solution
In unmanaged SD-WANs, deployment and management are undertaken in-house along with the hardware, software, and human expertise required for it. Typically, unmanaged solutions provide a more solid upfront investment and a diverse skill set that blends IT staff network knowledge with application programming expertise. However, the pitfalls to this approach lie in having to supervise network security and managing integrations with technologies, applications, and locations on-site. An unmanaged solution is right for you if:
In co-managed solutions, organizations manage aspects of their SD-WAN on their own, such as application policy creation and security policies, while outsourcing network key components like connectivity and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to the service provider. A co-managed SD-WAN is right for you if:
As the name implies, fully managed SD-WANs place the entire responsibility of management, operation, and security in a partner's hands. These MSP solutions are a good bet for enterprises that don't have the in-house talent needed for it and don't want to make the required upfront investment and would rather have an experienced partner that helps them manage network optimization, connectivity, and smart service chaining from the edge to the cloud. Fully managed solutions are right for you if:
According to NetworkWorld by IDG, MEF has characterized SD-WAN managed services on the basis of the programs they encompass. They are:
SD-WAN managed services can help you regulate network load and improve its performance, ultimately improving business productivity. Take the case of Koch Trucking, for example. An asset-based transportation company, Koch Trucking, has various sites in areas ranging from suburban to rural settings in over 30 states. At any given time, a site's location impacts the options for networking.
Because of this, they would operate a hybrid network with a mix of T1, broadband, and MPLS. However, they had issues with managing the performance of the hybrid network, and it created management issues for them, especially as Koch Trucking attempted to leverage services, such as VoIP to reduce costs and reduce the need for local support in its multiple sites.
It is then that Koch trucking decided to go for a managed hybrid SD-WAN as their overlay network. Since they wanted higher than one connection per device to ensure lower downtime, they opted for a managed hybrid SD-WAN. With it, Koch Trucking could share its VoIP phone system across its various locations. The SD-WAN helped them create an integrated hybrid network and incorporated the MPLS and broadband transport for higher efficiency and better performance, while seamlessly providing centralized security, control, and visibility for all its sites.
If you are wondering about following in the footsteps of Koch Trucking and thinking about the best roadmap for your business, ask yourself the following questions while choosing the right managed service provider.
CenturyLink is a tier 1 global WAN provider with extensive peering of public and private IP networks and has approximately 450,000 fiber route miles and services across North America, Latin America, EMEA, and APAC.
Staying abreast of the industry trends and the pace of innovation in the SD-WAN managed services space is very important. CenturyLink is recognized in the industry for the same and was awarded the 2019 Frost Radar® Best Practices Award for Innovation Excellence in the North American Managed SD-WAN Services Market. CenturyLink was also named the 2019 SD-WAN Service Provider of the Year, Worldwide and North America, by Metro Ethernet Forum.
CenturyLink's managed SD-WAN services afford enterprises the chance to make the most of dynamic, scalable, and flexible networking solutions to stay updated with today’s evolving business landscape. With CenturyLink's managed services, enterprises can combine these tools with the required expertise to ensure maximum business output impact and enable the networks that carry value to their most important customers.