SD-WAN for the MSP and MSSP

Software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) are an increasingly popular alternative to the traditional multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) links used for many corporate WANs. SD-WAN, as outlined in this SD-WAN guide, offers the ability to intelligently route traffic over multiple different transport media, enabling it to provide the same performance and reliability guarantees as MPLS at a fraction of the cost.

About 40% of companies currently outsource some or all of their security to an MSP or MSSP, and the number is growing. However, the number of service providers is growing as well, creating a crowded market. For MSPs and MSSPs looking for competitive differentiators, offering SD-WAN services is a good option.

Benefits of SD-WAN for Service Providers

SD-WAN provides an alternative to the traditional MPLS services offered by many MSPs and MSSPs. However, the benefits of offering SD-WAN to clients goes far beyond the simple cost savings associated with decreasing reliance upon expensive MPLS bandwidth.

  • Meeting Customer Demand

As the MSP and MSSP market becomes more diverse and crowded, service providers need to ensure that they are capable of offering the services that potential and current customers are looking for. One of the most widely demanded services is SD-WAN.

According to Gartner research, only 20% of enterprises currently have SD-WAN deployed, but 60% will have it deployed within the next four to five years. The popularity of managed SD-WAN is also expected to grow, making SD-WAN a vital feature for MSPs and MSSPs wishing to attract and retain customers and achieve competitive differentiation.

  • Alternative to MPLS

Many organizations require high performance, reliable network connectivity for their applications. As a result, many companies have deployed MPLS circuits to provide network performance backed by service level agreements.

However, MPLS bandwidth is extremely expensive. The main advantages of MPLS over broadband internet are its performance and reliability guarantees. An SD-WAN network running over dedicated, Tier 1 lines can achieve these same guarantees at a fraction of the cost. These cost savings can make an MSP or MSSP a much more competitive option in the eyes of a customer.

  • Expanding Service Footprint

Beyond the cost of MPLS bandwidth, another shortcoming is that it is expensive to deploy new MPLS circuits. This means that a service provider offering MPLS to its customers is limited to the geographic area where it has existing MPLS investment. SD-WAN, on the other hand, requires no specialized network links to operate. SD-WAN can run over the public Internet or use broadband Internet to reach points of presence (PoPs) that connect it to dedicated lines operated by the SD-WAN provider.

This lack of geographic limitations means that service providers can offer high-performance, reliable network connectivity without significant MPLS investment in the customer’s area. As a result, MSPs and MSSPs can expand their service offerings beyond their area covered by their MPLS layout.

  • Network Security Integration

For many organizations, fragmentation of their security infrastructure is a serious problem. As the cyber threat landscape evolves and organizations’ attack surfaces grow in size and complexity (encompassing cloud, mobile, Internet of Things, etc.), security grows more complicated as well.

Many organizations address new cyber threats by deploying standalone security solutions to address specific needs. However, this results in a fragmented security infrastructure that has limited visibility and is expensive to deploy, monitor, and maintain. SD-WAN provides an opportunity for service providers to offer security integration to their customers. Some SD-WAN solutions include integrated security functionality, such as a next-generation firewall (NGFW) and intrusion prevention system (IPS).

This integration simplifies an organization’s security deployment and enables a service provider to more quickly and efficiently roll out services to new client locations. Integrated and optimized network and security infrastructure also decreases the probability of an oversight leading to a cybersecurity incident, making it easier for an MSSP to provide the contracted level of protection and decreasing the probability and cost of incident response activities.

  • Centralized Network Visibility and Management

Service providers require solutions that easily scale to large customer environments or large numbers of customers. SD-WAN enables an MSP or MSSP to achieve scalable network visibility and management.

With SD-WAN, a service provider can support multiple different customers on shared but isolated SD-WAN infrastructure. Deployment of SD-WAN appliances to a customer environment is straightforward, and all remote workers can share a service provider’s network of SD-WAN PoPs.

This use of shared infrastructure dramatically decreases the visibility and management load on MSPs and MSSPs. The entire SD-WAN network can be monitored by a single array of sensors and on a single console. While new customers may require unique configurations and reporting, the underlying infrastructure is shared, making it easily scalable.

Selecting the Correct SD-WAN Solution

Offering SD-WAN services is a good choice for any MSP or MSSP. Beyond the strong demand for these services in upcoming years, SD-WAN enables a service provider to differentiate itself in multiple ways and increase the efficiency and cost savings of their services.

However, it is also important to select the right SD-WAN solution for the service provider and its customers. Security integration is an obvious requirement, but it is also vital to choose a solution that offers a network of PoPs that can support customers’ future needs. As the enterprise use of mobile and cloud grows, organizations require an SD-WAN solution that can support them with a geographically distributed PoP network.