The business case for SD WAN

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Over the last several years SD WAN has gone from a much anticipated technology promise to a commercially viable service and the hype is still strong – and for good reason. The much touted prediction from Gartner suggests that by the end of 2019, 30% of enterprises will have deployed SD WAN technology in their branches, up from less than 1% in 2015. Colt’s experience is supporting this prediction with customer demand for SD WAN rising to over half of all WAN RFPs in 2017 and several large, multinational enterprise customers already on board.

SD WAN helps customers to increase agility by enabling them to expand their branch sites more quickly, and manage their WAN more flexibly and in real-time. There is also potential to unlock significant cost savings.

Bandwidth demand is growing year on year, with no sign of slowing down. For branch sites located in key business areas, there is a lot of competition in affordable high bandwidth services. But for branch sites located outside of key business centres, there is much less competition and higher pricing. In fact, an enterprise looking to upgrade from 100Mbps to 1Gbps access at a branch site outside key business areas may be confronted with an increased cost of 60-70%.

This is where SD WAN comes into its own, complementing the existing high quality but high cost MPLS connection with a high bandwidth, lower cost public internet service.

SD WAN makes it easy to combine both the MPLS path and the public internet path, effectively creating one big virtual pipe. Small sites in remote locations could even get rid of the MPLS access and use SD WAN over public internet alone.

Colt is one of the first pan-European network service providers to provide a ‘true’ managed SD WAN solution, completely based on SDN and NFV technology, delivering a harmonised service with well-defined SLA’s across our multi-country footprint, on top of our high bandwidth Colt IQ Network. Colt SD WAN is not a re-labelled traditional hybrid WAN product, but a fully software based WAN offering with true NFV at the customer side.

In the past, for each functional component the customer required, there was in general a separate CPE appliance – such as a router from vendor 1, a firewall from vendor 2 and a load balancer from vendor 3. These were all proprietary devices that didn’t talk to each other and setup and management was complex.

With SD WAN and a true NFV setup – a general purpose x86 server at the customer site is capable of running all network component functionality as a software application. There is a routing application, a firewall and a load balancer all running on this same server.

This saves on hardware maintenance and install costs, but more importantly unlocks the benefits of much deeper automation and integration.

Thanks to NFV, automation becomes much more achievable, opening up functionality for direct portal-based changing of firewall rules, modifying load balancing rules, or changing settings in real time.

The flexibility of the product itself also makes it suitable for a wide variety of enterprise use cases, which Colt has already signed multinational agreements with, including a global manufacturer of automotive and industrial equipment for which we migrated their current network to an SD WAN solution with locations in 15 countries, and a big multinational banking and financial services company headquartered in Europe, with affiliates all around the world.

So the technology is here and the business case is clear, with enterprises adopting SD WAN benefitting from increased agility thanks to increased automation and portal-based consumption, while true hybrid networking makes higher bandwidths affordable not just in key business areas, but also in more remote areas.

I’m also proud to say that Colt was recognised for delivering the industry’s ‘Best SD WAN Service’ at the inaugural Network Transformation Awards, which took place at the SDN NFV World Congress earlier this month.

Peter Coppens is Colt VP Portfolio 



Peter Coppens

17 October 2017

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