Why are telecom service providers racing to get software-defined WAN offers into the market? Verizon's Victoria Lonker provided the clearest answer in a virtual press conference this week on NFV and SDN: because enterprises want those services now.
"Many customers are moving to production and they are typically starting with SD-WAN solutions," she said in what Verizon Enterprise Solutions had billed as a virtual fireside chat on virtualization and its plans. "That is the low-hanging fruit because it is available now, it is proven to work and an enterprise can really achieve immediate and real business outcomes."
The speed with which SD-WAN services are now hitting the market may be a sign that network operators have learned from the mistakes of the past, and are now willing to cannibalize an existing pool of revenue -- namely their higher-cost MPLS connections -- in order to retain enterprise customers and deliver something else of value. Among the companies announcing SD-WAN services in recent months are Verizon, CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), Masergy Communications Inc. , EarthLink Inc. (Nasdaq: ELNK), TelePacific Communications , MetTel , BT and RCN Corp.
SD-WANs separate physical network from the features that are delivered over it. They allow wide-area network connections to be created as virtual overlays, using either public Internet or private dedicated networks, and can be used to deliver connectivity that is tailored to specific applications. Today, the popular deployment -- and what Lonker references -- is use of SD-WANs to connect remote offices, in place of dedicated MPLS connections that are more expensive, much less flexible and more time-consuming to deploy.
Speed and flexibility are increasingly important to businesses as they digitize their operations and find they need much more bandwidth but don't have a bigger budget with which to acquire it, or the time to wait around for traditional service deployment, noted Andrew Dugan, group VP and interim lead for technology and IT at Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT), at Light Reading's NFV & Carrier SDN Event earlier this month. (See Level 3: Focus SDN/NFV on Enterprise Issues and Level 3 VP: Enterprises Need More for Less.)
That's why SD-WANs are becoming popular as a means of securely connecting remote offices: They ride over Internet connections, don't require the expense or provisioning time of MPLS links, and can be delivered flexibly to account for peaks in traffic usage, such as for monthly accounting or regular software patches.
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