Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) is gaining popularity as a way for enterprises to cut networking costs and gain control over the usage of their network bandwidth. Today’s SD-WAN solutions achieve those benefits, but they have two big drawbacks: 1) they are deployed as appliances (which limits changes), and 2) they are managed by the enterprise (which adds cost). These drawbacks take away from the appeal of SD-WAN. Now, there is a better way to deploy SD-WAN: as software managed by a service provider. Here’s how a software-centric managed service offering can optimize SD-WAN for enterprises.

Software Equals Speed

My friend Tim Naramore is CTO at Masergy. Under Tim’s leadership, Masergy has deployed enterprise services on standard servers. Tim says this approach lets them innovate at the speed of software. The same reasoning applies to enterprises.

Consider the case where an enterprise deploys SD-WAN as an appliance. What happens when (not if) a change is needed in the deployment? Somebody has to make a physical change at every site. That is a tremendous burden in terms of time and money. In contrast, a virtualized approach enables changes with a download. Enterprises can evaluate innovations in a low-cost, low-risk manner. Once approved, the innovations can be deployed throughout the network.

The drawback to a virtualized approach is that it adds some complexity to the deployment. By working with a service provider, enterprises can realize the benefits of a software-centric approach while delegating the complexity to their service provider partner. All gain, no pain.

Support Removes Headaches

The other issue with today’s approach to SD-WAN is the assembly and management of the network. An enterprise CIO can reduce recurring costs by replacing an operator-provider VPN with SD-WAN running over local broadband connections. What happens when there is a problem and it’s not clear which of the numerous local providers has an issue? Who ya gonna call? The answer is “look in the mirror.” That is not feasible for most enterprises.

A better answer is to outsource the network management to a domain expert – a traditional service provider. The service provider can handle the nuts and bolts of running the networks and arranging the third-party access. The enterprise can see cost savings and increased bandwidth, as well as enjoy the benefits that SD-WAN provides for fine-grained application control.

Make the Most of SD-WAN

SD-WAN is a promising technology but its current deployment model as a set of appliances managed by the enterprise has some severe drawbacks. Enterprises can gain much more value by deploying a software-based implementation managed by a service provider. With this approach, they get the cost savings and application control they want, without the headaches of managing a menagerie of access providers and software suppliers. It’s a winning approach for CIOs that can make them the hero in the quest for private networking. Savvy enterprise CIOs are looking for service providers who can deliver these innovative managed services.