New report highlights SD-WAN management challenges and key role of automation

SPONSORED: Findings from Heavy Reading's 'The Carriers Speak: The Future of Managed SD-WAN Services' report suggest that SD-WAN SPs are focused on automating processes to accelerate growth of the service and monetize it more effectively.

Jennifer Clark, Principal Analyst – Cloud Infrastructure & Edge Computing

January 7, 2021

5 Min Read
New report highlights SD-WAN management challenges and key role of automation

The management of SD-WAN services is a challenge for service providers (SPs) – from root cause analysis to underlay/overlay event correlation, SLA verification and managing network performance across hybrid network services. How are the SPs evolving their managed SD-WAN services? What tools are they are relying on to see them into a new generation of SD-WAN services and how are they leveraging automation to simplify service management and create an engine for growth? To gauge how carriers are planning and implementing managed SD-WAN services, and in collaboration with Accedian, Amdocs and VMware, Heavy Reading asked 103 global telco SPs about their plans for managed SD-WAN services. In our report, "The Carriers Speak: The Future of Managed SD-WAN Services," Heavy Reading analyzes the choices SPs are making with SD-WAN – and how their services are evolving.

Managing SD-WAN: It takes a village (of vendors)

Three out of the top four challenges Heavy Reading's survey identified for SD-WAN management address the complexity of managing a highly distributed service across multiple platforms, networks and cloud domains and integrating it into existing operations and business support systems (OSS/BSS). These are core challenges for the carriers every time they introduce a new service. How is SD-WAN any different and how are the SPs addressing these challenges?

Notably, more than 60% of survey respondents use three or more different management tools to manage SD-WAN services, with 16% using five or more tools. What are these tools and how satisfied are the SPs with them? 70% of respondents start with management solutions from the SD-WAN vendors themselves – bundled, pre-integrated solutions that include orchestration, analytics and security. However, they are also likely to implement select management functions à la carte; SPs are most likely bring in a third-party, best-of-breed solution for security firewalls and intrusion detection. A specific security solution is also often requested by the enterprise, a request that SPs are motivated to honor to maintain the customer relationship.

Figure 1: What types of tools are you using to manage SD-WAN services? (Check all that apply) n=102 (Source: Heavy Reading) n=102
(Source: Heavy Reading)

"Active performance monitoring on transport layer" and "performance analytics and correlation engine" are the next tasks most likely to be sourced separately from a third party. This is critical to get visibility into physical network performance, along with the SD-WAN service, and to correlate events for problem resolution, customer reporting and SLAs. These are followed by "third-party orchestrator" — where the SP may decide that features such as pre-integrated virtual network functions (VNFs), VNF orchestration, partner authentication or cloud collaboration provide enough additional benefits to warrant going with a separate third-party orchestrator. "Third-party security analytics" are used to help SPs keep up with the size and volume of cyberattacks. They can combine a big data platform with advanced analytics, threat detection, monitoring and incident response. "Third-party topology and inventory control" allow SPs to use information on network topology and configuration to isolate network elements, understand their effect in the network and correlate alarms and troubleshoot issues.

Leveraging automation

Given the scale of SD-WAN services and the complexity of managing them, it is not surprising that communications SPs are relying more and more heavily on automation to reduce the operational load. Heavy Reading asked SP respondents which tasks they had already automated and which they were focusing on for future automation. Not surprisingly, "performance monitoring of the underlay network" – the thorn in the side of many an SP – heads the list in terms of priority. Automation of the overlay network (the SD-WAN service itself) is far down on the list since it is the task most likely to already be automated.

Service provisioning, verification and activation – while they have been automated by more than half of the survey base – are tasks that the remainder of the base identifies as a priority for automating.

Figure 2: Out of those tasks that are not fully automated, which two do you consider a priority for automation? n=97 (Source: Heavy Reading) n=97
(Source: Heavy Reading)

The automation of SLA reporting captured the lowest number of responses. Heavy Reading suggests that one of the reasons for this result is that the automation of SLA reporting is dependent on other tasks that must be automated first. Accurate SLA reporting cannot be achieved without performance monitoring of the underlay network – the number one priority. When this is achieved, the importance of SLA reporting will rise in priority.

Heavy Reading sees this as an opportunity for differentiation. With the growth in cloud applications, edge computing, critical Internet of Things (IoT) services and network slicing, the customer must be able to make informed decisions that take into account all layers of the network. Accurate, multilayer SLA reporting can set an SP apart from the rest of the crowd.

Read the full report for more managed SD-WAN insights

Heavy Reading's findings are a good indication that SD-WAN SPs today are focused on simplifying and automating processes to accelerate growth of the service and monetize it more effectively.

To gain more in-depth details of SPs' perspective on the managed SD-WAN market, download and read the full report now: "The Carriers Speak: The Future of Managed SD-WAN Services."

— Jennifer Clark, Principal Analyst, Cloud Infrastructure & Edge Computing, Heavy Reading

This blog is sponsored by Accedian.

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Heavy Reading

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Clark

Principal Analyst – Cloud Infrastructure & Edge Computing

Jennifer Pigg Clark is Principal Analyst with Heavy Reading covering Cloud Infrastructure and Edge Computing. Clark provides actionable insight into service provider evolution, examining the challenges and opportunities facing network operators as they move towards 5G and IoT with an increasingly virtualized and cloud native infrastructure. Clark examines the solutions and technology reshaping the telco data center, technologies such as Edge Computing, Open Source, OpenStack, container networking, Network Orchestration, Software Defined Networks (SDN), Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), and SD-WAN. Clark started her industry research career with the Yankee Group, which was acquired by 451 Research in 2013. She held the role of Sr. Vice President at Yankee Group. Prior to joining Yankee Group, Clark was Manager of Network Planning and Strategy for Wang Laboratories'corporate data network. She began her career at Wang with responsibility for the domestic and international roll-out of Wang's packet network, connecting more than 250 locations in 14 countries. Before joining Wang, she was a member of the IT research and development division of Commercial Union Insurance Companies. Clark is a highly regarded speaker at industry seminars and conferences and is frequently cited by the commercial and trade press. She has been a guest lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and is a member of the IEEE. She holds a B.A. degree from Mount Holyoke College.

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