The SD-WAN “DIY or managed services” conundrum

As enterprises consider deployment architectures and potential implementation partners for SD-WAN, the big question is whether to go it alone down the Do-It-Yourself route or opt for a co-managed or fully managed service. It’s critical that enterprises know exactly what each option entails before they make a decision.

Analysts are expecting big things from SD-WAN. IDC, for example, expects SD-WAN sales to grow at a staggering 69 percent CAGR, reaching $8 billion by 2021. SD-WAN’s rapid take-up is being driven by an upsurge in connectivity requirements fueled by the cloud and data analytics, together an increase in mobile and remote users in branch offices.

SD-WAN, a software-based approach to managing wide-area networks, provides the flexibility, agility, efficiency and the enhanced user experience that modern business demands. It boasts ease of deployment, central manageability and reduced costs. The key advantage is the ability to manage multiple types of connection – from broadband to LTE and MPLS – to deliver a better end-user application experience in any location. SD-WAN integrates these diverse communications links into more flexible and reliable WAN bandwidth pools.

Managed SD-WAN is something of an odd duck since SD-WAN technologies are sold partly because of their ease of management and the higher levels of automation they deliver. Despite this, 80% of enterprises have chosen managed SD-WAN, compared to 20% choosing the DIY SD-WAN route according to recent research by Frost & Sullivan. The analyst firm reports that the managed SD-WAN market reached $700 million in 2017 and is forecast to grow to $3.5 billion by 2022.

This is because if enterprises buy direct from an SD-WAN vendor, support will be quite limited after the sale. Suddenly, they find themselves with logistics headaches when importing kit into their countries of choice, challenges in managing the performance of diverse Internet Service Providers (ISPs) around the world and technical complexity to ensure full SD-WAN interoperability within their existing network environment.

DIY or the managed route?

To DIY or not to DIY? That is the question that faces enterprises looking to adopt SD-WAN. Some enterprises buy in SD-WAN routing equipment and choose to install and configure it themselves at each site. This is the DIY model. Others use a systems integrator or communication services provider for these steps and then opt to manage the network themselves.

Alternatively, they engage a managed network services provider that offers various flavors, from deployment and maintenance to co-managed or fully managed network services. We have spoken to a few enterprises who have run a proof of concept test of an SD-WAN solution internally in one country, found it complex when they start to scale to sites globally and turned to a managed service provider. The enterprise may want to operate in a co-management mode, in which the service provider ensures the infrastructure deployment and management and internal teams handle the new application provisioning by creating new application-based routing policies through a web portal and changing them instantaneously when required.

Others require full support to enable internal teams to focus on more strategic areas of cloud transformation and the end-user experience. A managed service provider can help select the right mix of broadband, 4G/LTE transport and MPLS to meet the enterprise’s data privacy, speed of application response and cost objectives. It’s very much dependent on the enterprise, their skillsets and priorities – everyone is different.

What are the top three reasons for choosing a managed SD-WAN service versus doing it yourself?
DIY SD-WAN solution Co-managed or fully managed SD-WAN service

Unclear SLAs and problem resolution processes

SLAs have to be agreed with each ISP globally and can be difficult to enforce. Technical support, service-related communications, troubleshooting and dispute resolution will be different with each vendor.

Clear SLAs and problem resolution processes

SLAs, guaranteeing performance and connectivity, are provided even in remote locations. Single point of contact and process for technical support, troubleshooting and service-related communications across all the ISPs.

Contractual complexity

Multiple contracts and bills need to be tracked on a global basis, which is slow and time-consuming.

Contractual simplicity and agility

Simplicity of billing and increased commercial agility with the ability to add new geographies, capacity and application performance and security services as required.

Limited, standalone security capabilities

SD‑WAN provides native support for IPSec tunneling to encrypt traffic, but this is not a panacea – additional protection will be required.

Connectivity becomes integral to security

Enterprises can choose from a range of additional security services, including cloud-based web traffic filtering, role-based access controls and internal network segmentation.

Physical to virtual

SD-WAN involves installing equipment at each site, which routes traffic across an overlay network. Smaller organizations will often opt for a dedicated SD-WAN appliance. For those with more sophisticated network demands these appliances can be automatically connected to cloud- or network-based platforms that support virtualized functions, such as firewalls, routers and application optimization, at scale and speed.

SD-WAN is also an opportunity to be less reliant on physical devices and create the flexible software-defined branch office of the future. By using universal customer premises equipment (uCPE), enterprises can add a diversity of security and application performance SD-WAN functions as required with simple, centralized management and control.  This is a far more complex equation than doing basic DIY and one where enterprises reach out to a managed services provider.

Validating the interoperability and performance of virtualized network functions to create a reliable global platform is a huge investment for one enterprise so it makes economic and management sense for an enterprise to work with a partner like us.

Which road?

There is no single way to manage SD-WAN. Enterprises must carefully map out which road works best for them when it comes to deploying and managing SD-WAN, taking into account their business needs in the next 2–5 years. This is why we offer our Flexible SD-WAN services a la carte, so we can help customers in their evolution and transformation to SD-WAN whichever road they travel.

Download our ebook to read more about meeting the challenge of the digital age with SD-WAN.
Laurent Perrin

Laurent is Director of Product Marketing in the connectivity business unit of Orange Business. He leads a team of senior product managers covering multinational and French companies worldwide. His mission is to support Orange customers in the transformation of their network to adapt to new cloud, Internet and security requirements, leveraging SD-WAN, SDN and NFV technologies to optimize the end user experience. Key focus areas are SD-WAN, WAN optimization, application performance management, LAN, WLAN and cyberdefense. He brings his 20 years’ experience in the B2B telecommunication market, with a strong marketing focus in areas of innovation (Internet, M2M, hybrid networks, SD-WAN).