Telco vs. Non-Telco SD-WAN

What's the difference?

A new model is emerging for the enterprise WAN – but what flavor offers the best value for the enterprise?

Forget complicated MPLS networks that are difficult and expensive to procure and operate. Software Defined WAN or ‘SD-WAN’ is fast becoming the technology platform that smart global enterprises are using to power their networks.

From the data center to the furthest edges of your network, every circuit and carrier becomes meshed, optimized and under complete visibility.

It’s the same responsiveness and flexibility that cloud technologies are well known to offer, but instead applied to your network.

Telco-delivered SD-WAN…. Is it safer or easier?

From the time that SD-WAN technology became a robust enterprise solution around 18-24 months ago, carriers across the world have offered it as a progressive network alternative to their MPLS customers. Customers demanded innovation, and as a result, carriers leaned on their hardware vendor relationships to get SD-WAN solutions into the marketplace.

For some customers, it became the easy option to simply choose their existing carrier to implement a new SD-WAN solution. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the optimal one.

Carriers have significant investments in legacy technology networks, as well as back-to-back agreements with infrastructure owners such as submarine cable operators. This means that behind every customer network proposal, there’s a consideration for return on investment in their legacy infrastructure (as you’d expect), as well as their ‘innovation’ in SD-WAN.

Carriers also like to be able to control what customers do with the networks they’re leasing from them, with a model that calls for increased costs and commitment every time there’s an increase in demand from the customer. This doesn’t take into account things like technology biases – choices you’ll have to accept as part of their service, regardless of whether or not they’re the right/preferred solution for you.
It’s “our SD-WAN solution, delivered our way”.

Choosing your existing carrier may seem ‘safer’ and contractually easier, but it’s likely that you may not see the full cost benefit or overall flexibility that you otherwise would have by going it alone.

Because SD-WAN, just like cloud, has immense capabilities that shouldn’t be curtailed.

Non-Telco SD-WAN

Stepping out of an all-with-one-carrier arrangement might seem like a risky proposal, but with thorough vendor & solution evaluation and appropriate planning, it can pay significant dividends.

Before considering any SD-WAN agreement, a good vendor will help establish a high-level comparison of the existing network costs, structure and capabilities. This is crucial for getting a clear picture of the network as a whole and the current investment in it (both capex & opex).

This can also be a good time to consider enterprise ‘what ifs’, such as re-engineering locations, technologies, services, and carrier tail agreements. That way any additional operational benefits or cost savings that can be achieved as a result of the new integration can be highlighted in the business case.

The most important factor in choosing a non-carrier provider for your SD-WAN transformation process is the unbiased view of the carrier tail options in your network underlay – which you wouldn’t normally get with a carrier-led solution. This might include a best-of-breed combination of broadband, MPLS, and 4G/LTE options to deliver the best value & cost solution for the network.

The other benefit of partnering with a non-carrier provider is the SD-WAN technology itself.

Many solutions firms in this space use industry proven technology and have the experience to implement effectively, as well as the operational frameworks to ensure the transition is seamless. Whilst the technology is flexible, user friendly, and reduces the need for edge device management (it centralizes many functions and controls), many vendors provide comprehensive documentation, training and support too.

As-a-Service or On-Premise?

Unlike many carrier deployed SD-WAN solutions, going for a non-carrier led implementation can give you more options.

SD-WAN can be deployed in two different formats, on premise (your DC for the core hardware & software) or consumed as a cloud solution (as-a-Service). The choice of either of these models primarily comes down to your comfort level in being able to manage these resources and/or whether you have the in-house teams with the capability.

While no more complicated than running your existing enterprise MPLS network, they do require some specific knowledge about how they operate, are configured and managed. Many larger enterprises implementing SD-WAN choose to go for a self-managed implementation, with advice and support on hand from vendors.

This requires everything from selecting the type and architecture of the base layer technologies between sites, to the edge and central management devices. However, with a good SD-WAN advisory firm and a competent technical team, it’s presents a great solution with better control and increased application speeds across the network.

For smaller firms looking to deploy SD-WAN, an ‘as-a-Service’ model procured from a cloud-based SD-WAN vendor can be an easier and more cost-effective solution. This still requires a likely change to the underlying network architecture, however the cost of the changes will soon be outweighed by the benefits the technology brings.

Where to from here?

According to Gartner, more than 90% of WAN edge infrastructure will be using virtualized equipment or SD-WAN technology by the end of 2023 (only a few years away). One of the strongest leaders in this space according to its latest WAN Edge Infrastructure Report in October 2018 is VMware, with its VeloCloud SD-WAN solution. Implemented in more than 1,000 customer WANs, VMware has won business in “highly competitive situations with technologically astute customers”, showing that the technology solution is now mature and worth serious consideration in any MPLS network refresh project.

Which way will your enterprise go when it comes time for renewal? For a high-level overview and advice on your options, Coevolve can help. Get in touch with our solutions experts today.