Business Services: Using SD-WAN to Reel in the Bigger Fish

Dec. 13, 2016
As cable operators' business services arms court larger enterprise customers, SD-WAN is emerging as an increasingly important tool. Network functions virtualization (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN) hold ...

As cable operators' business services arms court larger enterprise customers, SD-WAN is emerging as an increasingly important tool.

Network functions virtualization (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN) hold promise for helping operators offer agility and dynamic change for a variety of services and solutions. Adding to the mounting list of possibilities, software defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) is a way to provide a virtual private network (VPN) over broadband networks instead of using dedicated multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) service to provide WAN optimization.

While SD-WAN is well-suited for small businesses that can't afford the cost of a dedicated MPLS, SD-WAN also shows potential as a managed service for larger enterprises, said Nirav Modi, VP and GM of Blue Planet at Ciena (NYSE:CIEN). A promising scenario is for an operator to offer a dedicated WAN augmented by SD connectivity.

"The enterprise gets the benefit of agility and policy-based routing of their applications or flows … (as well as) the prioritization of mission critical applications and the benefit of SD-WAN without having to own or manage appliances," Modi said.

A policy manager allows the enterprise to specify that all telepresence content, for example, should use the MPLS because of the guaranteed latency, while large file transfers should use the Internet-based VPN.

"There are all kinds of controls to manage the applications and user experience. It is about the enterprise being able to use bandwidth the way they want and get performance for the apps in question," Modi said.

Challenges for operators include not creating a separate operational silo for SD-WAN. SDN/NFV is about eliminating individual silos for service or technology type to having a more homogeneous approach to service deployment orchestration and fulfillment assurance, Modi said.

"In my conversations with customers, as they are looking to leverage SD paradigms, they are looking for a common framework to fulfill a variety of service types under a common orchestration layer," Modi said.

It follows that service providers should also be wary of locking into specific vendor solutions. Modi cautions against taking integration in the context of OSS/BSS too high into the organization and suggests using an orchestration layer so they have the choice of leveraging other SDN vendors. "They should architect the stack to remain vendor neutral and not rush."

Two models for SD-WAN are emerging. One places the SD-WAN solution at the edge of the network, and the other is a more centralized approach, similar to a shared data center that meets the needs of multiple enterprise customers.

"An operator needs to make sure they are accounting for the fact that both models will coexist, and they need to be ready for that paradigm," Modi said.

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