SD-WAN strategy: what are service providers prioritizing?

As the rollout of commercial SD-WAN activities gathers momentum, new challenges – and solutions – are arising. Reducing complexity, meeting stringent security demands, and efficiently managing multiple vendors are top of mind for service providers. To address this, robust SD-WAN strategies must be implemented. Here, we take a deep dive into service providers’ current plans and expectations for SD-WAN, and their predictions for the future.

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After a suspenseful prelude, communications service providers are now aggressively deploying commercial SD-WAN services.  The new Heavy Reading/Light Reading and MEF SD-WAN Strategies Survey Report, sponsored by Ericsson, represents the views of 125 service provider respondents, and 47 percent report that they have already launched commercial SD-WANs, with 27 percent in the process of expanding these services.

Respondents are optimistic about return on investment, with nearly half predicting that SD-WANs will account for 30 percent of enterprise revenue by 2023. However, to realize these ambitions a clear SD-WAN strategy must be in place.  

The SD-WAN Strategies Survey Report explores three vital components for SD-WAN strategies: orchestration for managed SD-WANs, application security and standardization and certification. 

Here, we outline the key insights.


Erasing complexity with orchestration for managed SD-WANs

In a multi-vendor environment of SD-WANs and various VNFs, service orchestration is essential for creating efficiencies, improving agility and driving future revenue growth. When asked about SD-WAN deployment options, service providers revealed:  

  • Concerns about SD-WAN complexity are top of mind. Service providers identified this as the number one threat to their SD-WAN strategy, and they specifically cited the complexity involved with managing a multi-vendor ecosystem and a multi-cloud system.
  • Despite this, almost half of the service providers who participated expect to see multi-vendor SD-WANs per customer. The results indicate that some level of multi-vendor interoperability within a single enterprise customer will be required for operators.
  • The overwhelming majority view single orchestrators across SD-WAN vendors as important to their strategy. Over three quarters of the service providers surveyed said this was ‘important’ to them, and 22 percent of respondents identified this as a ‘critical’ component of their SD-WAN strategy.


Flexible security architectures are an essential value-add

The ramp up in SD-WAN is unsurprising when you consider its benefits – particularly its ability to expand product portfolios and provide a flexible service delivery architecture. In this latest survey, service providers also identified the importance of value-added services, highlighting that:

  • SD-WAN growth is driven by operational efficiency and value-added services. When asked to rank SD-WAN capabilities in terms of importance, operational efficiency was identified as the most crucial, but there was also a strong focus on value-added services, specifically security-based features.
  • Security is a leading value-added service. Security as a value-added service has become imperative, with 76 percent of service providers confirming this service has already been implemented or is being implemented now.
  • Flexibility will become increasingly vital as SD-WAN evolves. SD-WAN will continue to adopt a greater measure of automation, centralized control and reporting, which is vital for keeping up with concurrent security demands.


Standardization of SD-WANs: what aspects are most critical?  

 Early adopters are calling out for certification and standardization for SD-WAN, and interest levels remain high across the board when it comes to SD-WAN certification programs. The majority of survey participants identified the following needs as either critical or important:

  • Monitoring the availability of third-party underlay connectivity. Nearly all the service providers who responded identified this as important (86 percent) and 36 percent believe this visibility is absolutely critical.
  • A common API for multi-cloud deployments. Almost a third of respondents stated this was critical, and 81 percent of service providers said it was at least important for the SD-WAN edge to have a common API to translate between popular cloud providers.
  • Application security standardization.This was rated absolutely critical by 37 percent of respondents, the highest of any standardization options provided.

 The survey results show there’s a highly positive outlook for SD-WAN among service providers. However, as commercial deployments continue to rollout, SD-WAN strategies must also evolve. The latest SD-WAN strategies report provides an in-depth review of current perspectives to help guide crucial business decisions.


Want to know more?

Download a copy of the SD-WAN Strategies Survey report (2019) from Light Reading, Heavy Reading and MEF for the full findings.

Download report


Read more about SD-WAN and orchestration from Ericsson

Find out why SD-WAN is an orchestration game

Discover more learnings from multi-domain, multi-vendor SD-WAN deployments

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