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New SD-WAN managed services survey: Key service differentiators and challenges have a lot in commonNew SD-WAN managed services survey: Key service differentiators and challenges have a lot in common

SPONSORED: The findings from Heavy Reading's "The Carriers Speak" report show that both the key differentiators and challenges for SD-WAN managed services focus on how to meet enterprise business needs.

Jennifer Clark

January 25, 2021

4 Min Read
New SD-WAN managed services survey: Key service differentiators and challenges have a lot in common

The software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) managed services landscape continues to change. These services have been around for over five years now, but service providers are constantly challenged to improve the management of this multi-vendor, multi-layer, and multi-domain environment. To gauge how carriers are planning and implementing managed SD-WAN services today, and in collaboration with Accedian, Amdocs and VMware, Heavy Reading asked 103 global telco service providers 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 service providers are making with SD-WAN – and how their services are evolving.

Standing out in the crowd: Differentiators and challenges

Heavy Reading's survey results reveal that the method most favored by service providers to differentiate their SD-WAN service is allowing enterprise customers to select their preferred SD-WAN platform. A moderately distant second differentiator is to allow them to select their preferred security platform. Later in the survey, we queried service providers about their most significant challenges in managing an SD-WAN service. Their number one response was the "operations complexity involved with managing multiple SD-WAN solutions."

The parallels between how service providers are differentiating their services and what they are having challenges with do not stop there. Offering service bundles that are targeted at the specific needs of the customer elevates the conversation away from platform choices and toward enterprise business needs. This is certainly the direction in which valued service provider partners want to take their relationship with the enterprise. In fact, "offer customers tiered managed SD-WAN and security bundles" – if Rank 1 and Rank 2 responses are combined – was the most popular response from survey respondents, coming in a significant 13 percentage points higher than the next most popular differentiators.

Figure 1: What are your top three preferred approaches for differentiating your managed SD-WAN service? Please rank them in order where 1 = most preferable. n=100
(Source: Heavy Reading)
(Source: Heavy Reading)

Providing a hyperscaler-like as a service is, similarly, a key challenge – of almost equal concern to managing multiple solutions, according to the combined "very challenging" and "challenging" votes. This hyperscaler-like experience is much less of a challenge to the larger Tier 1 operators – only 14% of which identified it as a "significant challenge," compared to 34% for the remainder of respondents. The large Tier 1 operators have established partnerships with the hyperscalers to address this limitation. These partnerships are benefiting everyone today – customers, service providers and hyperscalers.

However, the carriers are worried, and rightly so, that while they may think of a product offering as along the lines of a build-manage-transfer project, the hyperscalers may think of it as a build-manage-retain-all-high-margin-value project. The likelihood of this happening is underscored by the second to last concern – "competitive SD-WAN service offerings from hyperscale cloud providers."

Although the hyperscalers do not have the beachfront property of service providers in terms of proximity to the customer, nor management and control of the transport services, they are more than capable of managing the SD-WAN and the workloads running over it. The only questions are: Do they want to? Do they believe that their strengths in centrally located hyperscale data centers will be diluted if they follow the trail of workloads that benefit from compute and storage capabilities at the edge of the network?

Figure 2: How challenging is each aspect below to your company's ability to manage SD-WAN service offering? n=101
(Source: Heavy Reading)
(Source: Heavy Reading)

Read the full report for more managed SD-WAN insights

Heavy Reading's findings point out that key differentiators for SD-WAN services can still be a reach, in some cases, for service providers. They are still looking for the solutions that will enhance their ability to manage a multi-vendor, multi-domain network. And they are still focused on improving the user experience without increasing their reliance on the hyperscalers to do so.

To gain more in-depth details of service providers' 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 P. Clark, Principal Analyst, Cloud Infrastructure and Edge Computing, Heavy Reading

This blog is sponsored by Amdocs.

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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