Industry Voices—Raynovich: Key trends for SD-WAN managed services

Both service providers and cloud providers alike are ramping up their launches of software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) managed services to take advantage of booming demand from enterprises that see several benefits.

In an SD-WAN managed service, the service provider delivers the customer the hardware, software and network connections to set up their global WAN to improve connectivity, security and performance to cloud applications and data centers. The service providers can also provide value-added services such as bundled security, traffic-monitoring and service-level agreements (SLAs), as well as management features.

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In a survey of 121 network and IT managers, 64% are looking to add an SD-WAN managed service in the next two years, according to the results of the Futuriom SD-WAN Managed Services report. Futuriom's survey research, which targeted director-level and above professionals in IT and network management, indicates that SD-WAN is in high demand because end-users believe it will deliver better security, improved cloud applications performance and more flexible management.

This demand has pushed scores of global cloud and service providers to line up in order to present their SD-WAN offerings, which offer enterprises a way to purchase hardware, software and regular management of their networks from a third party.

In addition to surveying end-user needs, Futuriom delved deeply into the offerings of more than 20 service providers worldwide. They range from cloud-based providers such as Aryaka Networks and Cato Networks, traditional service providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Deutsche Telekom, as well as business-services specialists such as Colt Network Services and Masergy.

Let’s take a look at a few key takeaways on trends for what service providers are looking to offer.

Security blankets

In the user survey, enterprise practitioners ranked integrated security and service chaining as the first feature priority. Nearly all the major SD-WAN providers we looked at providing integrated value-added security services.

Many of the SD-WAN managed service providers are differentiating themselves with a wide range of security offerings. For example, Cato Networks offers a cloud-native platform that includes NGFW, Secure Web Gateway, Advanced Threat Prevention, Cloud and Mobile Access Protection, and a Managed Threat Detection and Response (MDR) service. Colt, for example, offers a Layer 3/4 stateful firewall or Layer 7 firewall with DDoS protection. CenturyLink offers a suite of security services it refers to as Adaptive Network Security.

Aryaka provides a full layer 4-7 security suite and can integrate with cloud security partners including Palo Alto Networks and Zscaler. It operates its own network with global points-of-presence (PoPs). Verizon offers a comprehensive portfolio of both managed security service and security add-ons, including stateful firewall, NGFW, unified threat management with IPS, IDS, antivirus, and fully managed security services with threat monitoring and remediation.

Other service providers are beefing up security offerings with SD-WAN platforms that are offered by vendors such as Versa Networks, which has its own integrated security functionality and was recently given the "recommended" rating in the NSS Labs 2019 Next Generation Intrusion Prevention Systems (NGIPS) Group Test.  Fortinet, which also received the NSS Labs “recommended” rating, is offering the FortiGate Secure SD-WAN which includes NGFW security, SD-WAN, advanced routing, and WAN optimization capabilities and has been adopted by many of the service providers we reviewed.

Portals and co-managed

Another strong trend is delivering self-service portals and co-management options for customers in SD-WAN. As indicated by our survey work, network and IT managers are seeking more flexibility in connecting branches with a software-driven model that enables network and IT managers to set up branch offices quickly. They want to do this with the power of automation and cloud-based management portals.

For some examples of how this is rolling out in the marketplace: Colt offers a customer-accessible portal with full WAN management and analytics, including real-time service changes. Aryaka Networks gives customers or partners visibility and configuration management via the MyAryaka cloud portal.  Comcast Business offers an app and a full co-management program with its portal. Cato Networks offers the Cato Management Console, which provides visibility and control over the customer network and firewall.

SDN and cloud integration

SD-WAN has taken over some of the “hype cycle” from software defined networking (SDN), but service providers are showing that the investment in SDN network cores is important because they can be used to provision and dynamically route services from the SD-WAN edge.

Another trend seen in the market is the drive to connect the SD-WAN edge to a SDN network core to carry security policies and traffic guarantees through the core of service provider networks.

Another trend is for service providers and cloud providers to beef up interconnection PoPs at key cloud connectivity points, which helps speed up access to cloud apps using SD-WAN. A big focus is on adding direction connections from SD-WAN platforms to cloud PoPs of the largest cloud providers including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Alibaba, to name four of the “elite eight.” 

Some of the examples here include Comcast’s ActiveCore offering, which ties together SD-WAN provisioning. Tata Communications’ IZO SD-WAN and Hybrid WAN use software-defined technologies to leverage Tata's MPLS and Tier 1 Internet backbone -- and provide cloud connectivity through partnerships with Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Alibaba.

In addition to specific service-provider efforts, the MEF industry group is defining a set of SD-WAN services in its MEF 3.0 initiatives. As part of that effort, the MEF has also launched APIs to enable service providers to implement full service-level agreements and quality of service (QoS) that can be carried across service-provider boundaries to encourage interoperability.

All of these trends are exciting because it looks like the largest service providers in the world are for the first time rolling out popular services based on software-defined and virtualization technologies that emerged from the cloud. SD-WAN has become the key services offering to put virtualized network control directly in the hands of the user.

R. Scott Raynovich is the founder and chief analyst of Futuriom. For two decades, he has been covering a wide range of technology as an editor, analyst, and publisher. Most recently, he was VP of research at, which acquired his previous technology website, Rayno Report, in 2015. Prior to that, he was the editor in chief of Light Reading, where he worked for nine years. Raynovich has also served as investment editor at Red Herring, where he started the New York bureau and helped build the original website. He has won several industry awards, including an Editor & Publisher award for Best Business Blog, and his analysis has been featured by prominent media outlets including NPR, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, and the San Jose Mercury News. He can be reached at [email protected]; follow him @rayno.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceTelecom staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceTelecom.