AT&T's Goodell: SD-WAN is no single silver bullet

With a growing number of endpoints and a trend toward digital transformations, SD-WAN is not a "one and done" technology, according to AT&T's Josh Goodell.

Speaking at last month's MEF18 conference in Los Angeles, Goodell, vice president of edge solutions, said that SD-WAN deployments are complex and that service providers need to help their customers understand and evolve their use of SD-WAN.

"Anyone that believes that this is simply plug and play and walk away is misled," Goodell said during his keynote address. "There are definitely challenges that you've got to work through as you're deploying these services across the globe. What are the elements of the solution that a customer can expect?

"There is no single silver bullet so understanding what type of solution SD-WAN we can provide, I think is essential."

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At MEF18, forum executives said they were on track to ratify and release the MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Service Attributes and Service Definition Standard in the first quarter of next year. Goodell said the standard will help define the elements that businesses and organizations can expect from an SD-WAN service.

SDN, NFV, edge compute and the IoT are driving digital transformations for service providers and their customers, but they are also creating more complexities. SD-WAN deployments across dedicated internet, broadband, LTE, Wi-Fi and eventually 5G connect the LAN endpoints and services to mission-critical cloud applications, Goodell said.

"What's been interesting for us is that clearly there is an application that has taken off, that is the killer app in this virtualized infrastructure and that's SD-WAN," Goodell said. "We announced recently that we've got 28,000 endpoints that are currently deploying and it has absolutely taken off. It's exploding. And what we've seen is that it's not about just that technology or just that edge device that's sitting on the end of the network. It really is about hybrid environments."

With VMware/VelcoCloud as its SD-WAN vendor, AT&T is using its virtualized Flexware platform for a network-based SD-WAN offering and an over-the-top version on an AT&T FlexWare device. Goodell said that AT&T's SD-WAN service, which launched two years ago, is now available in 200 countries, which includes third-party partnerships.

"Many of our customers challenge us to deploy this in some of the most challenging countries that you can imagine," he said. "We are up and running in 50 countries today, But we're talking about countries like Pakistan, Venezuela and UAE. These are challenging places to deploy these services. Our value proposition is really about being able to deploy that ubiquitous solution regardless of where that customer end point exists."

In order to help end customers with their digital transformations and SD-WAN deployments, Goodell said AT&T looks at the hardware and software solutions, the types of access connectivity that are the best fit and the number of sites that a customer has. Typically, a large customer could have five or six different site types across hundreds or thousand of sites, he said.

"The other element of the deployment that we see that's extremely important is understanding what's actually in the network," he said "These networks were not typically started from scratch. So what we see is you may have WAN optimization appliances, you may have routers, you may have security appliances and these don't all just come out at the same time so having a plan that works in a hybrid environment is really important."

Service providers also need to set the expectations of their customers when it comes to digital transformations. Transformations, and SD-WAN services, evolve in phases as additional capabilities are layered in, Goodell said.

"I'd say the last thing on the deployment complexity that has been a key learning is understanding the actual applications that are being used on the network," Goodell said."It's a matter of understanding all of these elements then building a sequenced plan and then rolling that out over time. It is not trivial but it does work and it's been amazing to see the adoption of these capabilities."