BT's Sabey expounds on the biggest lessons learned from SD-WAN deployments

BT's Jim Sabey has spoken to large multinational companies about their potential use of SD-WAN and he's learned a few things from those discussions.

In a previous Q&A with FierceTelecom, Sabey, head of BT Networking and compute sales specialists, talked about five lessons that BT has learned in regards to deploying SD-WAN. In this second installment, he expands on those five lessons and addresses a few misconceptions.

Related: BT's Sabey on the state of play for SD-WAN

FierceTelecom: Can you go into more detail about the five key market drivers you've learned for SD-WAN?

Jim Sabey: I’ll quickly run through those at a high level. The first is that you have the customer that has multiple network providers today, but in order to reduce some of that cost, they want to gain agility and visibility.

SD-WAN is really seen a really good enabler for them because they can deploy underlay and overlay, to use some SD-WAN terminology. With their underlay, which is the multiple networks that they have out there today, they don't have a good view and a good visibility into the applications and things like that. They’re really excited about SD-WAN because it's going to give them that commonality overlay across all of their networks.

Then the second one is you have this explosion of traffic. There are more and more applications on the network than ever before. It has been really interesting sitting in front of the multinationals that BT targets, and some of those are our current customers as well, and just hear how they're coping with that explosion of traffic. It's really their use of what we would call the hybrid network, so you still see a lot of MPLS out there today.  Actually MPLS last year grew about 23% from previous years. We're not actually seen MPLS dying off just yet. You're seeing SD-WAN coping with that explosion of traffic.

The third one is we have these large branch networks, which include a lot of the retail companies that we're talking to. They want to utilize new technology and applications while also enabling cloud adoption and that's a really great driver for SD-WAN.

Then one that’s really coming to the forefront, especially in some of the verticals such as the oil and gas sector, is securely managing critical sites. A lot of the oil and gas companies I’ve been talking to, they want services that they can rely upon and the emerging technologies of SD-WAN and network functions virtualization, or NFV, are really becoming critical for them. For example, an oil rig in the middle of the Gulf, it's hard to get technicians out to those sites via helicopter and things like that.

Then the last one would be what we would call boosting flexibility and control with virtual network functions. That's being able to download virtual network functions over the internet as you need them, much like you do on your cell phone today where you download applications and then install them. That’s another thing we’ve learned since launching SD-WAN, and it's really that control and the benefits of the VNFs.

FierceTelecom: So is there a use case related to SD-WAN that has surprised you?

Sabey: I would say not necessarily a use case, but some of the customers that we're currently deploying SD-WAN with, they're telling us that the overall payback on the total network spend is really around three years where a lot of the market has been dictating that SD-WAN return on investment is a lot quicker.

Now if you piece it apart and you replace your high speed, high cost MPLS with internet from a tactical perspective, your Internet pricing or your network pricing will drop. In talking to our customers, and as they deploy SD-WAN more and more, one thing we've learned is that the reason why they think the payback longer is because one thing they've forgotten is security. Security really needs to underpin any solution.

There is also misconception of sorts by the market that SD-WAN is less expensive, and while the edge SD-WAN CPE is potentially a lower cost than a router, the overall payback ROI is higher due to needing to address additional security requirements that come with SD-WAN.