Industry Voices—Doyle: Managed SD-Branch to provide new options for distributed organizations

Communications service providers need to evaluate their options when it comes to offering SD-Branch to their customers. (Pixabay)

SD-Branch technology has matured to the point of deployment and is now delivering significant benefits to customers in terms of speed of deployment, ease of operation and hardware costs. Communications service providers (CSPs) should seize the (potentially large) opportunity to offer managed SD-Branch solutions to their business customers.  CSPs will need to carefully evaluate packaged versus vCPE (self-integrated) solutions for their SD-Branch offerings.

SD-Branch status

Software networking virtualization, such as SD-WAN, enables the collapsing of a wide range of network functions onto a consolidated platform. The software-defined branch (SD-Branch) simplifies network operations by unifying WAN (SD-WAN and routing), network security (VPNs and firewalls), and LAN/Wi-Fi in an easy to deploy and manage package. Leading IT organizations have started to implement SD-Branch for new branch locations and some branch network upgrade projects, including end-of-life routers.

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CSP architectural options: Do it yourself vs. packaged solutions

Leading CSPs have long dreamed of creating customized branch network solutions based on category-leading software—including SD-WAN, firewall and LAN—running on white box hardware. The goal of these vCPE solutions is to enable CSPs to quickly deploy new or enhanced business services via software updates without changing the physical platform at customer locations. vCPE NFV solutions have been slow to roll out due to the cost, lack of standards and complexity of deploying multiple virtual software solutions on Intel servers.

Packaged SD-Branch solutions from leading networking and security suppliers provide CSPs with better integrated and more functional solutions with the benefit of rapid time to market. The SD-Branch suppliers have already tested/integrated a wide range of SD-WAN, security and LAN/Wi-Fi functionality via internal development and their partner ecosystem. Existing SD-Branch solutions are available from a number of suppliers including Cisco, VMware, Versa Networks, HPE, Cradlepoint, and Riverbed among others, with more offerings expected during 2019.

Recommendations for CSPs

SD-Branch technology has now matured to the point of reliable deployment and can provide the benefits of ease of installation, reduced management complexity, and lower capex. SD-Branch is primarily being implemented as a self-managed solution by leading IT organizations. CSPs need to move now to offer managed SD-Branch solutions to meet the emerging needs of their business customers.

SD-Branch solutions will continue to improve and over time will become the standard architecture for branch networking. CSPs need to weigh the trade-offs—which include time to market, cost, and complexity—of internally developed vCPE versus externally sourced SD-Branch technology. 

Doyle Research believes that packaged solutions from the highly competitive SD-WAN/SD-Branch market are well positioned to offer CSPs the best opportunities to access the large revenue potential, which will be billions of dollars, for managed SD-Branch solutions.

Lee Doyle is principal analyst at Doyle Research, providing client-focused targeted analysis on the evolution of intelligent networks. He has over 25 years’ experience analyzing the IT, network, and telecom markets. Doyle has written extensively on such topics as SDN, NFV, enterprise adoption of networking technologies, and IT-Telecom convergence. Before founding Doyle Research, he was group VP for network, telecom, and security research at IDC. He holds a B.A. in economics from Williams College. He can be reached at [email protected] and follow him @leedoyle_dc.

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.