Who is your Network Set Up For: Your Enterprise or Your Telco-Provider?

The early days of SD-WAN

Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) first started gaining traction in 2015. Using a centralized software application for eased network management, SD-WAN creates a virtual network on top of existing hardware, or underlays, to give enterprises greater traffic control and security over their global networks. Due to this ability, it garnered the attention of early adopters who were looking to get away from traditional network connectivity options such as Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS). As cloud-centric environments became the go-to for businesses, SD-WAN deployments grew in popularity. And as more enterprises started moving their entire WAN to the internet, it created a great conundrum for telco providers: start offering SD-WAN solutions or risk losing clients.

Today, the SD-WAN market is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.8 percent with revenues forecast to exceed 13 billion U.S. dollars globally in 2023 alone [1]. In comparison, the CAGR for the managed MPLS market for the same period is expected to be only around 6.73 percent [2].

First-generation telco-delivered SD-WAN

With the risk of missing out on a sizeable new opportunity forcing their hand, telcos went to market with their flavor of SD-WAN, but it only partially answered to the SD-WAN needs of enterprises. While telcos were able to make internet and cloud application access possible for businesses, the three core characteristics of SD-WAN — network agility, scalability, and cost savings — were notably absent from the first generation of SD-WAN offerings by telcos.

Why telco-delivered SD-WANs are different

Even in today’s landscape, telcos take a conservative, regimented approach to their solutions. This is because their sheer scale, extensive investment in legacy infrastructure, and existing partner commitments prevent their offerings from being as flexible as other SD-WAN solutions in the market.

In addition to being constrained by their business model, the overhead costs associated with telcos’ SD-WAN offerings raise questions about the net value for enterprises.

What enterprises stand to lose with telco contracts

In the rapidly evolving world of network technologies, it makes little sense for enterprises to attach themselves to a single telco provider, especially for multi-year lock-in contracts, the typical modus operandi with telcos.

Let’s take the example of the underlay circuit market, that often sees price drops and bandwidth increases, and where new competitive products are constantly entering the market. While a compelling discount upfront might be tempting, signing up to a multi-year lock-in contract may not be viable in the long run as over time, the commercial and technical position is bound to deviate materially from the current market.

Additionally, relying on disaggregated circuits from a variety of providers — in other words, a telco-independent approach — and using a range of access technologies has proven itself in the industry and can deliver a better performance of availability outcomes when compared to a traditional telco SLA-backed circuit.

The value of questioning: Who is your network really benefiting?

As the SD-WAN market matures, the gap between a ‘true’ SD-WAN offering and telco-delivered SD-WAN has become increasingly apparent. Shown to increase security, simplify WAN operations, optimize network performance, and enable scalability into the cloud, SD-WAN creates a strong foundation upon which hybrid solutions can be built.

Greater awareness of these SD-WAN capabilities allows IT leaders to ask more specific questions related to their specific needs such as how SD-WAN s­­olutions can be tailored to the unique needs of their enterprise and whether building contestable, disaggregated underlays might be the better solution for their changing bandwidth requirements.

Secondly, IT leaders also need to question whether the SD-WAN offer in front of them matches the industry standard or whether their provider’s business model and existing partner commitments might be preventing them from accessing the full SD-WAN feature set.

Another important question that IT leaders must consider relates to traffic flow. In the past, enterprises mostly engaged telcos due to their ability to supply the underlying infrastructure that formed the backbone of enterprise IT. However, what if 80% of an enterprise’s WAN traffic today is destined for the public internet, what role does that backbone play anymore? For example, if an enterprise’s WAN traffic is going to the Azure cloud, its most direct path is from the local ISP infrastructure to the nearest ‘front door’ infrastructure. In this case, the role of the telco network is not only redundant, but it can also detract from availability and performance.

Building a network that works for you

When it comes to enterprise networks, a one-size-fits-all approach simply cannot give businesses the flexibility they need in an ever-changing world. IT leaders today must seek highly flexible solutions with the ability to align the requirements of each region and stakeholder with the right level of service.

With a telco-independent SD-WAN approach, enterprises can choose from a highly contestable portfolio of telco and internet service providers to deliver sites globally. This enables IT leaders to not only take back control of their network but also build a network solution tailored to their unique business needs and ensure that the enterprise reaps the full benefits of next-generation networking and security technologies.

IT leaders should note that disaggregating the enterprise network doesn’t always create unwanted complexity in terms of working with multiple vendors because experienced managed services providers specializing in networking and security technologies make it easy for enterprises to benefit from the offering of a variety of providers.

How we can help your enterprise IT needs

As a leading global provider of telco-independent solutions, driving enterprise adoption of next-generation networking and security technologies is at the crux of what we do at Coevolve. Our proven methodologies and frameworks help our clients pinpoint exactly what they need at every stage of the network lifecycle.

Our service modules can be selected as a fully managed package or can be delivered through an optimal balance of shared responsibilities with your enterprise’s in-house team. Contact our team today to take back control of your network by building a contestable, disaggregated underlay customized for your enterprise’s unique needs.