SD-WAN: The MSP Connection

Managed service providers are working with software-defined WAN vendors to streamline WAN management.

Lee Doyle

September 15, 2016

3 Min Read
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Software-defined-WAN is delivering significant improvements for distributed enterprises with branch networks. Several SD-WAN vendors are teaming with managed service providers (MSPs) to offer IT managers the option of outsourced WAN management, improved unified communications (UC) services, and the cost benefits of more bandwidth at lower price points.

Defining SD-WAN

SD-WAN uses software and cloud-based technologies to simplify delivery of WAN services to the branch office. Software-based virtualization enables network abstraction that results in centralized network operations and management. It enables the deployment Internet-based connectivity such as  Ethernet and 4G easily, quickly and with quality, reliability, and security.

Who are the MSPs?

Managed service providers represent a third important channel for SD-WAN -- one that's separate from do-it-yourself enterprise deployments and communications service providers (CSPs) that leverage SD-WAN technology to enhance services on their own IP or MPLS communications links. MSPs can represent a variety of service providers offering SD-WAN services, including out-of-region providers (MSPs providing services where they don't have a physical plant) unified communications (e.g., voice) service providers leveraging SD-WAN to improve quality of experience for their customers, and system integrators that help their enterprise or government customers manage their networks.

Trends driving managed SD-WAN

The trends towards mobility, more video, and cloud have increased bandwidth requirements and made the performance of many applications sensitive to the quality and latency of WAN services. IT organizations are increasingly challenged to provide quality of service (QoS) cloud applications based at remote data centers. Internet traffic models project that business WAN bandwidth will increase, on average, 20% per year. All of the trends point to the requirements for more bandwidth at the branch, with a focus on branch-to- internet bandwidth.



MSPs can help distributed organizations that find it difficult to recruit and retain talented IT personnel to support their remote, branch locations. Via SD-WAN's centralized management, MSPs can outsource some of IT operations at branch locations.  Initial SD-WAN implementations can be complex and it's difficult to select the right SD-WAN technology from the more than a dozen suppliers. MSPs provide the experience to reduce the headache of SD-WAN selection, provisioning, and operations.

MSP SD-WAN deployments

MSPs leverage the power of SD-WAN to offer higher quality services and reduce branch network costs. Primary examples of SD-WAN deployments by MSPs fall into three categories:

  • MSPs with UC/video applications use SD-WAN to reduce jitter and packet loss to improve the quality of voice/video services for their customers.

  • System integrators leverage SD-WAN to reduce bandwidth and operational costs for customers with distributed networks and increasing bandwidth requirements.

  • Service providers offer out-of-region WAN connectivity leveraging third-party internet or 4G connections.

Here are several examples of SD-WAN suppliers and MSP partnerships helping enterprise IT organizations.

  • For the prioritization of UC traffic in retail verticals, VeloCloud works with Mitel and Vonage for quality enhancement of last-mile traffic with visibility, analytics, and remediation.

  • Cradlepoint teams with IBM and Hughes Networks to improve their ability to offer outsourced branch networks that are easy to install, and manage.

  • Versa Networks partners with CenturyLink to leverage  third-party cable internet links in connection with CenturyLink's MPLS services.

  • Talari works with RigNet on the company's Interchange network to help the offshore maritime and oil and gas industries establish greater network bandwidth aggregation and increased resiliency.

SD-WAN offers compelling advantages for distributed organizations with critical branch operations, including the benefits of business agility, improved application performance, and lower costs of bandwidth Distributed organizations such as many retail organizations with a “lean IT” philosophy can benefit from SD-WAN solutions delivered by MSPs.

About the Author(s)

Lee Doyle

Principal Analyst, Doyle ResearchLee Doyle is Principal Analyst at Doyle Research. Doyle Research delivers quantitative and qualitative analysis, forecasting, and market positioning advice to network infrastructure suppliers, service providers, and IT industry professionals. At Doyle Research, Lee research targets the Evolution of Intelligent Networks: SDN, NFV, and COTS. The Intelligent Network (both enterprise and telecom) is a critical part of the overall IT infrastructure. The Intelligent Network requires scalability, reliability, security, quality of service, programmability, and manageability. Lee holds a B.A. in Economics from Williams College.

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