SD-WAN has come a long way from its inception in 2014. Back then it was all about moving away from MPLS and using low-cost Internet connectivity to connect physical branches together. It also heralded a change in the way WANs were procured and operated with a seemingly easy path to move from a fully managed WAN connectivity service to a more customer driven do-it-yourself model.
In those days there were a few ‘early-adopter’ enterprises that ‘un-carriered’ their WAN and gained some short-term benefits from picking and choosing bandwidth providers at each site and running their own SD-WAN service platform. These were exciting times with many SD-WAN trade shows popping up and many stages filled with positive stories of SD-WAN changing the speed of business.
At Nuage Networks from Nokia we had several large enterprises that embarked on these do-it-yourself SD-WAN deployments and our team still works with many as they continue to expand the use of SD-WAN not only across their WAN but deep into their use of the public cloud. But in an overall market, these types of tech savvy enterprises are limited. For most enterprises their network teams were rightsized in the early 2000’s with the move to outsource the deployment of their WAN on MPLS and managed IP-VPN services. For these enterprises, which represent the vast majority of the market, their business management wanted to minimize in-house costs by continuing with the outsourced model and the procurement of a managed wide area network service.
The market showed this ‘normalizing’ of SD-WAN and by 2016 most of the leading CSPs had begun to operationalize SD-WAN and were offering it as a complementary managed network service alongside their MPLS services. 2021 data from analyst company EMA Infographic shows that managed SD-WAN has become the best practice approach to deploying SD-WAN with 74% of the most successful SD-WAN projects involving managed SD-WAN.
Managed SD-WAN is the way forward for enterprises as they deploy in 2021 and 2022 especially as the business requirements on the WAN increase through the use of multi-cloud and the need to seamlessly connect both in-office and at-home employees.
However, as Service Providers entered the managed SD-WAN market they encountered delays as the new SD-WAN platforms were subject to their internal processes and controls that gate all new service platforms becoming operationalized within their network. These projects involve multiple teams from the front office (enterprise division sales and marketing) working alongside the back office (network architects, product managers and operational teams) to implement the service platforms. These are generally large projects, some taking multiple years as the new service platform must integrate into the existing operational and business support systems (OSS/BSS), and in fact may cause ancillary upgrades on these existing platforms so that integration can proceed. The result is often a go-to-market conflict between when the front office wants the service available and when the operational and engineering teams are able to fully deliver and operationalize the platform.
Once installed there is also the ongoing rollout of new customer features, and with SD-WAN and cloud networking being reasonably new, there are both competitive and customer-driven service velocity requirements that drive a fast service evolution cycle. This puts immense pressure on the back-office teams to implement new versions of SD-WAN software. The speed of these changes is not usual for Service Providers and their standard processes are not geared for continuous change. Other network service platforms, like those that deliver our residential and mobile broadband Internet and phone services never had the feature velocity and complexity that SD-WAN and the use of the cloud(s) bring. What’s needed is a new way to deliver SD-WAN and to remove the operational burden from the CSP/SI.
Enter, SD-WAN-as-a-Service and the consumption of the SD-WAN service platform that aligns to the as-a-service model.
Nokia has spent several years working alongside our key Service Provider customers to understand the pain points of implementing SD-WAN and we have come up with an innovative as-a-service deployment model that removes the major hurdles in both CapEx and resources that hinder SD-WAN service velocity.
Called Nokia Cloud Managed SD-WAN Service, the offering is completely owned and operated by Nokia. The service platform is securely hosted in multiple locations in the public cloud which removes all need for on-premises installation of components by the CSP/SI. They can simply signup to the service, which is offered on a subscription basis, and with minimal effort they can be in market with a new managed SD-WAN service that is fully branded with their logo.
The Nokia service team took a forward-looking approach to the core features of the service with three key areas of capability added to the cloud managed service that will provide a flexible platform for CSP/SI’s to build their Enterprise Cloud Networking services around.
The first of these is connection to the public cloud(s), with the Nokia Cloud Managed SD-WAN Service having cloud exchange points of presence (PoPs) via our hosting partner Equinix. At these points, which we refer to as AppWAN, the enterprise SD-WAN service can directly connect to the major public cloud providers and industry-leading SaaS vendors. This reduces the need for third party transit and improves application latency and performance across the customer service footprint.
Second is the emergence of the cloud security market, coined Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) by Gartner™ as the framework for enterprises as they move the functionality of their security framework out to the cloud. With Nokia Cloud Managed SD-WAN Service we have developed a comprehensive solution that includes embedded network security services we call Virtualized Security Services (VSS) that can be implemented at the customer’s branch/home or service-chained within the CSP/SI Telco-Cloud. These VSS features can then be augmented by cloud-based security solutions from leading providers, such as Check Point Harmony, Palo Alto Prisma or Zscaler to create the service-wide capability set compatible with the SASE framework.
Third is the new working environment where employees may be full-time on company premises, full-time working from home or a hybrid of both. Here the Nokia team have created an SD-WAN at home solution, called ‘branch-of-one’ that provides the same features and policy-based management capabilities as physical office locations have, thus providing a single WAN management domain across the home, office and cloud locations.
The Nokia Cloud Managed SD-WAN Service is available now and we already have many CSP/SIs taking advantage of the offering to deliver their branded Network-as-a-Service products that encompass SD-WAN, Cloud connectivity and SASE features.
For more information on the service visit the Nokia web site at: https://www.nokia.com/networks/services/cloud-managed-sd-wan/