On Wednesday, AT&T announced it was out of the starting blocks with its hybrid SD-WAN offering for business customers.
AT&T is taking a two-pronged approach to SD-WAN. The network-based AT&T SD-WAN solution, which will be available next year, combines hybrid networking with multiple types of network access. AT&T also plans to launch a premise-based, over-the-top SD-WAN solution later this year, which will allow customers to add SD-WAN to an existing site.
"Businesses need to satisfy increasing bandwidth demands while reducing costs. That means network needs are evolving, too," said Rick Hubbard, senior vice president of AT&T Network Product Management in a prepared statement. "This initiative is part of our software-centric strategy that gives our customers more flexibility and control of their networking services."
In addition to AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Telstra, Masergy and BT have launched their own flavors of SD-WAN. AT&T said its SD-WAN strategy differs from competitors' approaches because it is integrated into AT&T FlexWare devices and AT&T Integrated Cloud (AIC) nodes. AT&T's SD-WAN is also integrated with other network connectivity options.
Enterprises and service providers that utilize SD-WAN can cut down on the cost of relying on expensive MPLS services. With SD-WAN, customers can either use private MPLS circuits for their mission-critical traffic, or the public Internet for less sensitive material. By tapping into split-second routing, SD-WAN selects the best connectivity option for each application on the fly. Based on policies that are in a central controller, SD-WAN software forwards traffic across the link that is best suited to handle that flow's SLA requirements without needing a network engineer.
The appeal of SD-WAN is that it gives customers options for how they manage bandwidth and allows them to virtually add, remove and manage network functions, such as routers or firewalls, for each device.
Today's news is a feather in the cap of SD-WAN vendor VeloCloud, which was announced as AT&T's SD-WAN partner. VeloCloud is part of the AT&T Integrated Cloud ecosystem that's focused on SD-WAN.
There are several types of SD-WAN, or hybrid WAN, offerings from vendors. VeloCloud bills itself as a "cloud-delivered" SD-WAN company, which means its customers don't need to purchase or rent hardware. On the other hand, router vendors are building SD-WAN capabilities based on their existing platforms.
In January, VeloCloud Networks Inc. announced it had raised $27 million in a Series C round of funding that included Cisco. (See SD-WAN Will Stay Hot in 2016.) VeloCloud's SD-WAN customer roster includes Deutsche Telecom, Vodafone Americas and EarthLink.
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation