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In the clouds: SD-WAN services the way you want them

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Swapping a traditional wide-area network (WAN) for a new kind of branch and remote-location network connectivity — software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) — reduces operational costs and improves resource usage as well as security.

In my last post, I described why this is true and enumerated several SD-WAN approaches, including appliances, software licensing, SD-WAN as a service, and SD-WAN managed services.

But which sort of SD-WAN capability is right for you? Approaches break down into two types: do it yourself or turn to some sort of SD-WAN service.


To do SD-WAN yourself, you’ll need deep in-house knowledge of complex SD-WAN technologies and deployment techniques as well as SD-WAN management skills and an equally deep understanding of your own (probably arcane) IT infrastructure.

If you have these resources, you’re in a position to take advantage of SD-WAN appliances and SD-WAN software.

SD-WAN service capabilities to look out for

But if, like many mid-size and smaller enterprises, your organization does not have the necessary in-house expertise to deploy and operate SD-WAN, you’ll need to enlist some sort of cloud-based SD-WAN service.

When you do, keep in mind MEF’s seven fundamental SD-WAN managed services capabilities:

1.   Secure, IP-based virtual overlay network;
2.   Transport-independence of underlay network;
3.   Service assurance of each SD-WAN tunnel;
4.   Application-driven packet forwarding;
5.   High availability through multiple WAN links;
6.   Policy-based packet forwarding; and
7.   Service automation via centralized management, control, and orchestration.

SD-WAN service options

SD-WAN services come in two varieties — SD-WAN as a service and SD-WAN managed services. Here’s how they differ:

SD-WAN as a service

SD-WAN managed service

How the service is hosted:
Service provider typically offers the SD-WAN service on its own private cloud network

How the service is hosted:
Service provider typically partners with an SD-WAN vendor to add SD-WAN services to its cloud portfolio

SD-WAN monitoring and management:
Your responsibility, usually via the service provider’s cloud-based management portal

SD-WAN monitoring and management:
Responsibility of your SD-WAN managed service provider

WAN communications services:
Contracted (with a communications service provider) by you

WAN communications services:
Contracted (with a communications service provider) by your SD-WAN managed service provider

Generally based on the features and functionality you select
Typically available as a monthly subscription

Generally based on customer sites, locations, link speeds, and SLA requirements
Typically available via one-year or multi-year service contracts

Easy upgradability
Latest functionality

Performance levels assured via customized SLA
Monitoring, management, and security handled by experts


A conversation with your trusted technology advisor will help you decide which approach — SD-WAN as a service, an SD-WAN managed service, or possibly some customized hybrid of the two — will work best for your business.

Tim Burke
Meet the Author

Tim Burke is the President and CEO of Quest. He has been at the helm for over 30 years.