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Should your telecom provider manage your SD-WAN strategy?

As interest in software defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) grows, many traditional telecommunications providers are jumping on the bandwagon to bundle their data and voice service offerings. I would caution those exploring their options with SD-WAN as a potential technology solution for their business to think carefully about going this route. I'll detail some key reasons why one may want to steer clear of bundled offerings from telecommunications carriers:

  • A key benefit of SD-WAN is the freedom from carrier lock in and the ability to select the best access provider(s) a particular region has to offer. Bundling with your telecom provider can hamper flexibility to pick and choose the circuits you want.

  • When bundling with circuits, pricing may prove unpredictable when the packaged offering is pulled apart. If it's determined later to choose another SD-WAN solution, to take circuits to other providers or to change the arrangement in any way, it could adversely affect the bottom line and there may even be penalties.

  • Carriers will represent one, maybe two SD-WAN solutions at most with which vendor partnerships are secured. Because there is no "one size fits all" model with any vendor currently in the SD-WAN space, Managed Services Providers (MSPs) and Value Added Resellers (VARs) have a compelling story with more choice and a better technological fit as they can represent many different best of breed solutions.

  • A Managed Service Provider offering provides more of a customized and "boutique" solution which can be tailored to the customer needs. Service provider offerings are typically standardized and very rigid leaving little room to get "out of the box" to provide advanced integration options.

  • Telecommunications carriers have a vested interest in maintaining the high margins of services like MPLS. With that, SD-WAN service offerings will likely be created to augment MPLS services, not replace them whether or not that is the right solution for the customer.

From a technology standpoint, SD-WAN will no doubt create a great deal of value, agility and savings for those running large wide area networks, no matter who it is procured from. That said, I would advise not locking into a solution that reduces choice and the ability to realize SD-WAN's fullest potential.


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