Where has SD WAN come from?
The SD WAN CPE market has been maturing for a couple of years having been founded by new start-ups, such as Viptela and Versa Networks in around 2012.
SD WAN is born out of concerns that were originally seen by forward thinking large enterprises over their static and difficult to manage WAN architectures. With a move to cloud based services and the high cost of international MPLS compared to in-country locally sourced internet there was a desire to be able to deploy and manage the local CPE simply, and to take advantage of internet with its lower costs and shorter route to platforms and applications. Lessons learned from the server virtualisation revolution also showed a future where software based networking and security features could be deployed without the physical hardware with the associated distribution and maintenance logistical support requirement.
Gartner, in their 2017 Competitive Landscape: WAN Edge paper recognised that there would likely be 5 waves of disruption in the SD WAN market starting with the SD WAN start-ups followed by, in 2016, a number of existing providers from adjacent markets such as WAN Optimisation, who would pivot from their current position to refocus and rebrand themselves as SD WAN providers. The 3rd wave of disruption would be the major CPE vendors such as Cisco, Juniper and Huawei either purchasing one of the start-ups (as we’ve seen with Cisco and Viptela) or developing their own capabilities.
The 4th wave is where a complete SD WAN solution starts to emerge. This is where carriers bundle the SD WAN hardware with their carrier circuits to provide a one stop shop. They may even supply a much richer monitoring and alerting experience extending way beyond the WAN CPE and into the LAN, infrastructure and applications. This will satisfy those large enterprises who outsource the management of their network but also paves the way for the carriers to develop a volume solution designed to meet the needs of medium enterprises to who have traditionally bought managed WANs.
The 5th wave, which is likely to take place at the same time as the 4th will be Managed Service Providers (MSP) who have the distinct advantage of not only providing a more cost effective hybrid network (marrying together different carriers, network and access types) but also tend to be able to handle a more hybrid approach to management.
MSP’s often allow customers to purchase their own carrier circuits, acting as their own resolver group whilst the MSP maintains overall responsibility for ticket management. MSP’s are also more likely to bring the extensive monitoring capabilities enjoyed by large enterprise customers of global carriers to customers in the medium enterprise level.