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Cable MSOs Charge Ahead With SD-WAN, Address Need for Hybrid Deployments

Cable MSOs see SD-WAN as a way to better serve enterprise customers, and expand their market reach.

For cable MSOs, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) represents a potentially transformative technology in the quest to better serve enterprise customers, with virtualized functions as a foundation. This technology “is a golden opportunity to add a cutting-edge product to their business services and support strategies to move up market by serving larger companies and multi-site enterprises,” said Heavy Reading contributing analyst Craig Leddy, in a Light Reading article.

Operators like Comcast and Cox Communications see SD-WAN—in combination with DOCSIS 3.1—as more affordable and flexible than MPLS, and a means to expand services using their existing coaxial connections for gigabit internet speeds, rather than relying on fiber, Leddy noted.

He added: “The market is expected to be flooded with SD-WAN products and related VNFs that cable can support with its high-speed business Internet services. All service providers and SD-WAN suppliers face a market where competition is becoming fierce and the pace of SD-WAN adoption is unclear. Cable providers must prove they can deliver a high quality of service and customer support — areas where they currently are not perceived as leaders in rankings by business customers.”

But, most businesses still aren’t using SD-WAN services to replace private MPLS-based links, noted Light Reading editor-at-large Carol Wilson in a recent article. Instead, they need solutions for a hybrid approach that allows them to add SD-WAN options to existing links, and run services across both.

“Managing traffic and implementing policy in such a hybrid approach introduces complexity that many businesses don’t want,” Wilson elaborated.

Addressing this need, CenturyLink recently rolled out a set of managed service bundles designed to eliminate the complexity of such hybrid deployments, Wilson said in the article.

CenturyLink’s SD-WAN offerings come in three bundle packages: bronze (add-on to existing MPLS connection), silver (MPLS and broadband connection provided by CenturyLink), and gold (same as silver, with two SD-WAN devices at the remote site), explained RCR Wireless News technology writer Nathan Cranford, in a recent article.

Comcast is another operator that’s putting a lot of thought into the best uses for and methods of deploying SD-WAN for enterprises. In a recent SDxCentral webinar, Comcast Business’ VP of Connectivity Jeff Lewis elaborated on its reasons for treating SD-WAN as an over-the-top (OTT) cloud-based service, embracing such a strategy for its robustness and extensibility.

Successful SD-WAN, Lewis explained in the webinar, is all about execution and customer satisfaction, which requires monitoring as a key component to avoid network-wide visibility drawbacks that MPLS tends to suffer from. And, as already discussed earlier, he noted that SD-WAN is likely to deployed as part of a hybrid migration alongside MPLS.

How do you see SD-WAN being adopted by enterprises? We’d love to hear your comments!