Gartner Insight: What Are Global Network Service Providers Planning?

Driven by the availability of software-defined networking (SDN) technology, and enterprise adoption of cloud IT services, global enterprise networks are entering a time of rapid evolution. When choosing network providers, companies with a global footprint are challenged to ensure they get the coverage and features they need in all locations, and that their roadmaps align with those of increasingly differentiated providers.

Gartner’s recently published Magic Quadrant for Network Services, Global, is intended to be a guide for enterprises navigating this important decision-making process. Its conclusions are summarized here; read the full analysis for a deeper look.

Gartner analysts Neil Rickard and Bjarne Munch start by defining what the Quadrant covers: suppliers of fixed corporate networking services worldwide, including WAN, SIP trunks, and dedicated internet including VPN, as well as value-added networking services like WAN optimization and manager network security.

The authors note that some of the capabilities providers offer to differentiate themselves include managed hybrid WAN, cloud connectivity, and PSTN replacement with SIP trunks, as well as emerging technologies like SDN-WAN, NFV, and vCPE. All of these have the potential to increase the flexibility and agility of enterprise networks.

In its assessment of 12 global enterprise service providers, this Magic Quadrant highlights the fact that technology and market forces make it difficult for all providers to be truly ‘global,’ and to offer all types of services to all customers. Some are best characterized as Nice Players or Visionaries, while others fit into the Challenger or Leader categories; few come close to straddling multiple quadrants.

Source: Gartner (January 2016)

Gartner notes that providers typically own networks covering only certain regions (for example, AT&T in the U.S., NTT in Asia Pacific and Africa, and Telefonica in Latin America and Europe) and rely on network-to-network interface (NNI) partners to cover other areas.

Although providers are working to expand their portfolios to cover a broader spectrum of enterprise services, each has a core set of strengths. For example, Orange’s enhanced hybrid WANs with cloud-based VPN, Sprint’s SIP trunking, and Verizon’s managed SD-WAN and bandwidth on-demand capabilities.

In terms of provider roadmaps, common threads run through many of the providers’ plans: near-term intentions to roll out emerging services like cloud connectivity, WAN optimization, WLAN, vCPE, and NFV/SDN. In addition to these new offerings, some—like AT&T and Telefonica—are also heavily focused on expanding their own networks’ coverage. Orange Business stands out in that its is consolidating its network (reducing POPs in smaller markets, bringing on NNIs to serve those areas instead). Each operator is balancing its own unique set of trade-offs when it comes to network investments, changing business models, and other dynamics.

All of this is both confusing and positive for enterprises with a global footprint; they have more options now for network services tailored to different purposes, but covering everything that’s needed may require working with multiple providers.

We would add that things may get simpler for enterprises as cloud services brokerage providers—those offering dedicated, value-added connectivity services to support enterprises moving to the cloud—grow in number with increasingly flexible self-service options. Obviously, the cloud is a huge part of future enterprise IT and telecommunications services, so operators of any type that offer this connectivity will have a competitive advantage.