The three managed SD-WAN business opportunities for service providers
While in the midst of a seismic industry shift, the tech world can get caught up in a “how we do it” mentality. However, what’s sometimes lost is the value to customers and partners. The software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) revolution is no different, writes Nav Chandler, the senior director of service provider marketing at Silver Peak.
SD-WAN enables geographically distributed enterprises to connect users to applications with the flexibility of using any combination of underlying transport technologies, such as MPLS, broadband or 4G LTE. Service providers are at the intersection of this WAN transformation, but are known to move slowly into new markets – especially when it impacts established business models. As the SD-WAN industry shift gains momentum, it is critical that service providers realise the added value managed SD-WAN services provide.
Managed SD-WAN connectivity
From a revenue and time-to-market perspective, managed SD-WAN connectivity services offers significant business opportunities. A recent SD-WAN enterprise survey by Frost and Sullivan highlights how enterprises are likely to purchase a managed service either from an existing network service provider or from a managed service provider (MSP) that may not necessarily own the underlying network infrastructure.
According to IDC, most of today’s US$80bn annual managed service revenue is represented by managed services which have traditionally required exclusive physical network infrastructure and customer premise equipment at all sites.
A managed SD-WAN service is by definition, an overlay solution that utilises existing network infrastructure as an underlay. Service provider managed services leverage SD-WAN solutions to extend managed WAN services with service-level agreements (SLAs) to remote branch office locations by utilising ubiquitous broadband connectivity to each site. This can yield net new revenues and an opportunity to extend hybrid WAN or SD-WAN services beyond the service provider’s own physical footprint.
The second driver for managed SD-WAN services is as an enabler of a new functionality, such as optimised cloud connectivity or an improved enterprise user experience, particularly for direct access to software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. Managed SD-WAN services must address performance and customer experience in a world where applications are moving to the cloud, and that network SLAs alone, are not enough in this application-centric world.
SD-WAN solutions should be transport agnostic to enable service providers to develop and offer SLAs over any mix of two or more WAN services available at each site, including any backup service that may be leveraged by a tunnel bonding feature. SD-WAN solution attributes should ideally address performance, security, visibility and agility, features that enterprises must consider for using new cloud-enabled services.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT endpoints can sometimes be located in very remote and even hostile physical environments (think of a natural gas pipeline or water conduit traversing a desert with little or no population). An SD-WAN solution with zero-touch provisioning and centralised orchestration, designed to run over any network – including satellite, 3G, or other wireless technologies – may be the only way to manage the infrastructure and overall health of remote pipelines without having expensive personnel dispatched there.
By leveraging application micro-segmentation within an SD-WAN solution, service providers can quickly create fine-grained policies that leverage business intent overlays to enable unique security overlays for different classes of machines or industrial equipment for tiered services.
An example of a three-tiered managed IoT service could be:
- Tier 1: Provide different types of networking reports on the real-time health of the equipment
- Tier 2: Control and optimise the use of power/cooling for the equipment from a central manager
- Tier 3: Collect and analyse the data to control and schedule maintenance service for the remote equipment, including anticipating and adapting to network brownouts or disruptions
Continuing with a pipeline example, the compressor stations may have a highly secure zone that is only accessible by an IT manager or chief engineer. Each valve and sensor may have a second security overlay and that can be accessed by technicians, engineers and vendors via a secure link. The video security cameras and temperature sensors may require another level of security that is accessible to service provider engineers in the network operations centre, enterprise customer technicians and enterprise IT through the service provider web portal. It is important for an SD-WAN solution to enable this level of flexibility while maintaining continuous compliance with security policies.
As more distributed enterprises employ internet and cloud-hosted applications, service providers stand at the intersection of digital transformation and the future of organisations’ communication networks. Offering tiered, managed SD-WAN services, enables service providers to drive a new route to monetise the connectivity and optimise application performance across any WAN environment, including the emerging world of managed IoT services. SD-WAN solutions can serve as a foundation for service providers to capitalise on these new business opportunities and deliver new tiered managed SD-WAN services.