Taking SD-WAN to the Next Level with Automation


Spotlight on SD-WAN | TelecomDrive.com

As Enterprises become increasingly digital, SD-WAN has already proven to be the essential ingredient to transform the WAN. From easy access to cloud applications to fast activation of new branch offices and lower costs, there are a multitude of reasons why SD WAN is one of the highest growth services in the industry.

CSPs are addressing this market with managed SD-WAN offerings which currently represent about half of the market at this time. Yet it is becoming an increasingly crowded market with many deployment options for enterprises to choose from, including DIY, cloud managed services, system integrators etc.

For CSPs to be successful in capturing a greater share of this lucrative market, standing out from the crowd will be critical. Whilst initial deployments are underway, CSPs can improve their efficiency and competitiveness in a number of ways and ultimately use SD-WAN as a foundation to capture a greater share of the B2B market.

More Automation – It’s Time to Scale

Early deployments were of modest scale, with a few select enterprise customers and several hundred sites. While SD-WAN was an essential ‘ticked box’ to compete for new enterprise business, many CSPs preferred to lead with their more lucrative, long established and higher priced MPLS offerings, which of course came with higher margins. The strategic focus is now changing, however, and CSPs are acquiring new enterprise customers at a rapid rate, but are struggling to provide a fast turnaround.

The reason is due to partial automation. SD-WAN vendors have automated some tasks including configuration and zero touch provisioning of CPE devices. However, the problem as CSPs scale to acquire 100s enterprises customers with 1000s sites, is at the service layer.

Today, service provisioning of SD-WAN is mostly done manually with legacy OSS. With service orchestration, CSPs can fully automate service provisioning, assurance and the entire lifecycle of the service. Standard data models, such as YANG, drive the intent based orchestration and MEF’s LSO framework provides the essential standards based APIs to interconnect with north and south bound components.

Simplifying Multivendor Through Automation

The first SD-WAN managed services centred around a single vendor solution for the SD-WAN controller and CPE devices. Commercial offers were build from the feature set the particular vendor supported. Today, the market reality has evolved to where every CSPs has or plans to move to a multivendor SD WAN.

Whether it’s to increase their chances of winning an Enterprise contract due to vendor preferences, or to address different feature sets for different markets, multivendor is a market necessity.

Accomplishing this is no simple task. With a multivendor scenario, CSPs have exponentially more complexity that includes supply chains, OSS/BSS integration and customisations, and specialised vendor training, not to mention the support of multiple vendor technical GUIs that are completely different to each other.

The answer to simplify brings us back to automation with the service orchestration we mentioned earlier, providing the necessary abstraction layer across the multiple SD-WAN controller instances and uCPE managers. It does not matter if the functionality is in an enterprise or CSP data center or public cloud, as it will orchestrate across any cloud.

Service orchestration therefore unifies and streamlines all the offerings with a single OSS/BSS integration point, and using the MEF Presto APIs between the SD-WAN controllers and service orchestration, integration is simplified even further.

Adding 3rd Party Value Added Services to Increase Revenue

Most SD-WAN vendors have some virtualized value added services built into their offers – such as security or WAN optimisation. However, adding other 3rd party value added services can not only increase the competitiveness of the offer, but also create up-sell opportunities to increase revenue.
For this CSPs need to adopt universal CPE (uCPE), on which multiple VNFs from any 3rd party vendor can reside at the enterprise premises, and Network Orchestration (or MANO) to automate the provisioning and lifecycle management of these VNF resources at the uCPE or in the data center. Network orchestration should also take care of the important function of VNF licence management that will be critical in a multivendor environment.

Automate from a Digital User Experience Portal

With multiple vendor SD-WAN and value added services in place, interacting with all the individual technical portals from each vendor becomes untenable. This is where a unified self-service portal becomes an invaluable tool in goal of end to end automation, using MEF LSO Legato APIs to the service orchestration.

A single integrated user interface allows the enterprise customer to configure new sites, set up rules and policies, define topology and monitor and trouble shoot everything end to end. It also provides a consolidated abstraction layer that enables easier bundling, unbundling and service change management using a single interface.

This means while VNFs/controllers can be added or removed, the user interface remains the same – providing an intuitive and CSP branded window to everything. And this powerful capability can be also be given the enterprise customer with varying degrees of control.

Expanding to the SMB market to Increase B2B Scope

Whilst CSP offers have mostly focused on the large enterprise to date, the sweet spot will be the SMB market. The challenge here is getting the price points and selling strategy right and aligned correctly, and typically here, the direct sales force strategy just isn’t a viable or efficient option. With a digital marketplace, CSPs have an e-commerce platform to sell their SD-WAN offers via the web.

SMB customers can easily select, purchase and activate SD-WAN and value added service through an intuitive window. With pricing packages linked to a CSPs billing application, CSPs can compile service bundles that not only include SD-WAN/VAS services, but can also include cloud IT and IoT services also such as Microsoft 365 or unified comms services. Entire digital service bundles can also be created and priced to expand into the lucrative SMB market.

Call to Action

For CSPs to truly differentiate in today’s market, it’s time to take SD-WAN to the next level; not only to increase efficiency but penetrate deeper into the B2B market. A good reference model can be found in the MEF Proof of Concept ‘Orchestrated Virtualized Multivendor SD-WAN Services’ to be showcased at the MEF19 event, 18-22 November 2019, in Los Angeles.

Now is the time for CSPs to be thinking strategically about effective automated customer outreach, business and technical process flows, process standardization and of course, delivering an appropriate enterprise-centric customer experience. Put all this together effectively, and CSPs have a great opportunity to take the major share of the SD-WAN market with these high value managed service offerings.