SD-WAN announcements by service providers have been fast and furious over the past few years, with no sign they will abate any time soon, but behind the buzz a reality check is in order.
Just this week, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) said it was joining the SD-WAN ranks, which also includes the Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), Masergy Communications Inc. , BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), and Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS). (See AT&T Boards SD-WAN Bandwagon.)
According to the latest Kable Global ICT Customer Insight study of over 2,600 enterprises across all regions, 54.5% of enterprises already use the technology and 58.4% plan on adopting it within the next two years. Clearly SD-WAN is scratching a big itch for businesses.
But John Isch, director of network and voice practice, North America, Orange Business Services , said some elements of SD-WAN arenít that new -- and the cost savings SD-WAN brings to the table were variable.
In Part 1 of this Q&A with Telco Transformation, Isch defines SD-WAN and talks about the cost savings from being less dependent on MPLS. In the second installment, he'll discuss whether there will be consolidation among SD-WAN vendors, and how the market will evolve.
Telco Transformation: We've heard a lot of hype in regards to SD-WAN services. Can you give us a quick overview of the different types of SD-WAN offerings?
John Isch: Generally speaking, SD-WAN solutions are centered around intelligent path control that allows organizations to integrate Internet into their networks and essentially creates hybrid network environments. There are variations on this theme among the various SD-WAN providers, combining different elements of WAN and LAN services, but this is the service that most customers are focused on when looking at SD-WAN.
The "buzz" boasts about significant cost savings by creating these over-the-top networks. However, the savings are based largely on the difference between the costs of Internet and private network solutions. In some regions of the world, Internet is significantly less expensive, while in other regions the difference is minimal. Of course, SD-WAN is not the only solution that can provide overall WAN cost reductions by leveraging Internet. We at Orange Business Services have been selling hybrid environments that do this intelligently for years.
TT: Who will become the primary providers of SD-WAN services? Enterprises, over-the-top companies or carriers?
JI: Initially enterprises are implementing these solutions on their own in a self-managed OTT fashion. As the SDN/NFV market matures, we expect this to shift to carriers.
SD-WAN will become a service that will be implemented and integrated inside SDN orchestration platforms within a carrier's infrastructure. It's one of many services that the open orchestration platform will control.
The over-the-top nature of most SD-WAN services are at odds with a modern network where the private network is providing a large number of services to clients -- services like voice, video bridging, Internet access and cloud access. Orange has been providing solutions that address these exact requirements for years now, and we are rapidly moving to put the control of them under our orchestration platform. These are really not new solutions, just a more automated and intelligent method of delivering them.
TT: Which is best suited to meet the evolving needs of enterprises?
JI: While enterprises may see immediate advantages by self-managing an SD-WAN solution, they need to consider the cost of managing themselves and the lack of end-to-end ownership of the solution, particularly if they have a global network. Our customers are focused on providing reliable and predictable application performance for their users, and they expect service level agreements (SLAs) to back that up. This is just not possible with OTT SD-WAN solutions.
TT: One of biggest benefits that have been touted for SD-WAN is the cost saving from moving away from MPLS, but is that actually the case?
JI: The amount of cost savings is highly variable. There are many things that will impact the return; the cost comparison between MPLS and Internet is only the beginning. IT managers need to look at the cost of managing the service, the value of other services being provided by the MPLS network, and the cost of managing multiple orchestration platforms, among other elements. The organizationís security policy will also impact the ability to leverage the Internet.
If the Internet is chosen purely as an alternative to MPLS, the cost savings can be limited. If a customer is migrating from central Internet gateways to local gateways, the cost savings can be significant, as this will reduce the amount of data in the private network. It is not unusual for up to 80% of the traffic on the private WAN to be destined for the Internet. Therefore, if that traffic is sent to the Internet closer to the edge, the need for bandwidth in the private network can be reduced.
This can be done today with the Orange hybrid network. Itís not just about replacing MPLS with Internet; itís about creating a next-generation network that leverages the right technology at the right place in your network.
As another example, Orange can typically save customers up to 40% off their global voice spend by deploying SIP gateways within the MPLS network. If the SD-WAN solution utilizes tunnels and takes this solution away, what is the total cost to the enterprise then? Todayís networks are much more than just simple connectivity between locations. Itís paramount to look at the totality of the network, the applications running on it (including voice and video) and the companyís security policy to fully understand costs and savings.
ó Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation