Spectrum Enterprise is the latest service provider to launch a managed SD-WAN offering for business and government customers, one designed to meld together SD-WAN and Ethernet networks via a software-defined networking and network functions virtualization platform integrated into the Charter Communications' company's existing fiber network. But the MSO blended various playbooks to differentiate its offering and, like a remix artist, expects the ensuing result to surpass the individual elements.
That's because Spectrum Enterprise's SD-WAN service will be completely managed from start to finish, said to Satya Parimi, group vice president of Enterprise Data Products at Spectrum Enterprise told Broadband World News in an interview. Due to SD-WAN adoption's infancy and the complexity of technologies underlying and connected to the wide-area network, it's crucial for clients to have a more seamless experience, he said. Without providing managed SD-WAN services, enterprises themselves potentially are held back from this advance by staffing, education and other resource barricades -- hurdles Spectrum Enterprise will lift while simultaneously providing customers with a systems integration-like experience, Parimi said.
"As we went through these [customer trials], we pretty quickly came away with the fact that SD-WAN has a lot of really good new, really compelling new feature-functionalities like application visibility, ability to browse across multiple networks, traffic steering -- a lot of this flexibility is great, but it also comes with a lot of complexity as well," he said. "SD-WAN is also talked about as over the top, but it's as simple as something as over-the-top as your Netflix: All you need is Internet and your Netflix just magically works. For WAN environments it gets very complicated based on the network environment you have and the use cases, the configurations you have."
Given its experience in the world of communications, of cable and multiple enterprise data centers, Spectrum Enterprise wants to remove that complexity from corporate IT departments and replace it with a dashboard that informs and controls some functions, noted Parimi. However, any other changes must be made via Spectrum Enterprise, he said, given that any alteration could impact the entire ecosystem, like dominoes.
"We decided to launch a product that was a fully managed SD-WAN service," said Parimi. "We believed that right client experience is a fully managed offering where we help them with design upfront, installation and 24x7 support and monitoring on the backend to get a lot of clients or enterprises comfortable, getting to the SD-WAN environment because SD-WAN market is still very much in its infancy."
Service With a (100-Gig) Smile
Since lack of internal resources are the main reason businesses don't deploy SD-WAN when they want to, Spectrum Enterprise's decision to offer only a managed SD-WAN service, a "white glove service," makes sense to analysts.
The Spectrum Enterprise Managed SD-WAN service includes several connection options; application visibility and prioritization through traffic steering for improved performance throughout the network; integration with existing mission-critical Ethernet using hybrid SD-WAN as they change and grow, and the management portal for visibility and control over certain aspects. Finally, the SD-WAN includes an optional integrated virtual security service. Vendor partners include Cisco for services orchestration; Fortinet for virtual security solution; Netcracker for VNF management and Nokia's Nuage Networks for the SD-WAN technology.
"Once a provider has SD-WAN up and running, the next big challenge is how to sell most effectively. Providers need to train their sales forces to identify SD-WAN opportunities, backed by suitably trained technical talent. Sales may also need role-based training to educate influencers in the decision," wrote Brian Washburn, practice leader of Network Transformation and Cloud at Ovum, a sister site to BBWN and Light Reading. "The provider needs to draw lines between standard implementation assistance and custom professional services for migration, and offer managed services tiers."
Growing, growing, no sign of stopping
Once enterprises are less nervous about SD-WAN and see the benefits amass, they are expected to deploy more. SD-WAN technologies will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 35% through 2023, Dell'Oro Group estimated in a 2018 report. The SD-WAN infrastructure market will reach $4.5 billion by 2022, roaring at CAGR of 40.4% between 2017 and that year, according to IDC.
Last year, managed SD-WAN services generated about $282 million in the United States alone, Vertical Systems Group found. That will explode, IT professionals predict, given the headaches they face: Deploying and managing networking infrastructure is time-consuming, said 50% of 200 senior IT professionals surveyed in late 2018 by Sapio Research for Teneo. In fact, 36% said those tasks alone devoured their entire IT budget, and no doubt was one reason 33% had used a cloud-based as-a-service model.
That lack of internal capabilities is quite common, said Ovum's Washburn. "There are opportunities for third-party assessment, network design and professional installation, and for fully managed services," he wrote.
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