With greater focus and urgency on digital transformation and digital-first services than ever before, businesses of all sizes are racing to digitize, while also keeping up with IT complexities. The advent of hybrid, multicloud environments is fueling an even greater emphasis on application experiences. Applications are core to organizations with enterprises sometimes running hundreds of applications in support of their business. Today’s enterprise users need to access these applications with the best user experience from anywhere and any device dynamically, securely, and on-demand without thinking about it.
In this multi-cloud era, digital services are delivered across multiple networks. Yet enterprise customers are not buying transport, and they're buying services. They don't necessarily care about the underlying details, only the experience, behavior, and the realization of their business goals. They want to consume network services in the same way they do cloud applications - with the ability to turn services on and off on demand. They expect reliable connectivity and excellent application performance over networks, which in many cases, they don't directly control. Few organizations have 24-by-7 security operation centers or sophisticated network management today. Within these parameters, how are user experience and application optimization ensured?
SD-WAN capacity has increased over time and has grown from small-to-mid-sized deployments to be able to address thousands of sites today and potentially tens of thousands of sites in the future. It has evolved to become an ideal technology to enable any enterprise digital business. Security, a vital facet of any deployment, is supported by both device-based and cloud-based security. And through a SASE architecture, customers have the combination of cloud-delivered security and network connectivity (SD-WAN) coupled with zero-touch network security (ZTNA) to support dynamic, secure access needs. Because SD-WAN leverages centralized management and intelligence, and the SD-WAN fabric extends all the way to the cloud, policies can be defined centrally, enabling a level of automation and a normalized experience across the major cloud providers. Traffic prioritization, assured application performance, and end-to-end visibility capabilities of SD-WAN are achieved through advanced telemetry and application-aware routing.
Today’s market is complex. New technologies are introduced rapidly, and enterprise customers need help determining what solutions will best meet their needs. Generally, an enterprise network has an ecosystem of multiple vendors, sometimes with different “flavors” of SD-WAN. Without standardized SD-WAN services, enterprises are left to figure out on their own how SD-WAN is defined, what’s in it and what's not, what kind of service they will get, and how they can compare one service or vendor to the next.
Standards create common terminologies, definitions, guiding principles, and a foundation from which technology and service providers can build upon and differentiate themselves. Standards can also help customers streamline their solution evaluation and simplify SD-WAN implementations. Working together, service and technology providers can create an environment with normalized characteristics, common terminology, and service definitions; key attributes that benefit supply and demand.
Adopting industry-standard approaches like those offered through MEF ensures success. Standards remove complexity and provide the industry with common language and definitions so that enterprise customers can compare "apples to apples" when choosing and implementing solutions. This will ultimately help the industry accelerate adoption through interoperability while still allowing competitive differentiation.
Role of Service Providers to offer managed services
Service providers are well positioned to not only deliver standardized managed SD-WAN services to the enterprise but to capture their share of the SD-WAN and SASE managed services market as well. Tremendous progress has been made integrating legacy and new technologies to help bring these services to market in an easily consumable, utility-type manner. With their tremendous ability to scale and integrate many services together, such as underlays, overlays, edge, cybersecurity, network, and security operation centers, service providers have a competitive advantage to bundle multiple services together in one offering to the enterprise. They can also offer more granular, co-managed services, where the service provider manages the infrastructure, and the enterprise manages the policies. Above all, service providers are trusted entities that have provided their customers with services for decades.
As enterprises come to depend more and more on the cloud and cloud-based applications to conduct business, the demand for secure, reliable connectivity with exceptional performance to access applications and services dynamically grows. The rapid introduction of new technologies and an increasing emphasis on industry-backed standards will help to reduce complexity and further accelerate the SD-WAN and SASE market.
JL Valente is a MEF Technical Advisory Board Member and VP, Product Management, Enterprise Routing and SD-WAN at Cisco. (View his full bio here.)
(Editor’s note: This article is part of our regular series of articles from the industry experts at MEF.)