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

Jennifer P. Clark

01 Feb 2021

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

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Heavy Reading's managed SD-WAN services survey results reveal that CSPs key differentiation methods also poses a critical challenge to their success

It has been four years and more since Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN) moved from marketing presentations to production implementations. The technology is now claiming a spot on ASEAN enterprises’ priority list. The growing adoption of cloud computing across Asia-Pacific has been driving this uptick in demand for SD-WAN. Enterprises are under pressure to speed up connectivity while improving network resiliency. Although some enterprises have deployed high-speed networks, the bandwidth is not scalable. SD-WAN has now become a connectivity standard for enterprises looking to address the need for agile networking and cloud convergence.

On the supply side, communications service providers continue to play an important role to accelerate market adoption. Currently, almost all APAC telcos have added SD-WAN managed services in their portfolio. However, the 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, in collaboration with Accedian, Amdocs and VMware, Heavy Reading asked 103 global telco service providers, including many in APAC, 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.

What are your top three preferred approaches for differentiating your managed SD-WAN service? Please rank them in order where 1 = most preferable.

survey 1

n=100
(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?

How challenging is each aspect below to your company's ability to manage SD-WAN service offering?

survey 2

n=100
(Source: Heavy Reading)

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.

For more in-depth details on service providers' perspectives on the managed SD-WAN market:

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