Our recent blog at Network World examined the SD-WAN marketplace, posing the question “Should you buy an SD-WAN service?” Like so many technologies, the decision isn’t as simple as “yes” or “no,” but one that’s dependent on your organizations particular needs and challenges. And make no mistake, the chances are there’s a vendor and an offering out there that’s perfect for you. When we first started evaluating SD-WANs, the market was constrained to only a handful of players, but today, more than 30 vendors deliver some kind of SD-WAN offer.

Managed SD-WAN Services

For organizations who value simplicity and don’t mind some service provider lock-in, managed SD-WAN services can be a good fit. They require less resource investment than do it yourself (DIY) SD-WAN equipment (and software) and they bring can the performance benefit of a private network. While Internet stability and performance has improved dramatically over the years, the reality is that the Internet is still an unmanaged service. DIY SD-WANs take measures to minimize this problem, but they do not eliminate the issue, especially when latency paths pass 200ms.

OTT SD-WAN services

You’ll need to choose between over-the-top (OTT) SD-WAN service or having your SD-WAN bundled with a carrier network, such as MPLS or Direct Internet Access (DIA). OTT SD-WAN service providers address the performance and complexity challenges of DIY SD-WANs. Rather than relying on the Internet end-to-end, OTT SD-WAN providers use their own core networks. Last-mile access is provided by the local Internet provider who carries traffic between the provider’s points-of-presence (PoPs) and the customer site using a VPN. OTT SD-WAN providers claim to locate PoPs within 30ms of most major commercial areas, marginalizing the performance impact of the Internet.

Bundled SD-WAN services

As service providers have realized the opportunity of hybrid WANs, many have bundled SD-WANs with their existing MPLS and private data services. In effect, they take an OTT SD-WAN service a step further, providing the option to control the local access and core of their networks. For companies looking to augment their existing provider relationships with the flexibility of SD-WANs, bundled SD-WAN services can be an attractive approach. The problems of bundled SD-WAN services are the same for any services provided by a service provider or carrier. With the right operations and customer team, services can be a godsend. But for service providers turn a profit that often means cutting back whether in their investments in technology, or in the quantity and quality of their personnel.

You can see a list of SD-WAN players here.