ISG Provider Lens™ Networks - Software Defined Solutions and Services - Archetype Report 2021
Networks and software-defined solutions and services encompass many technological topics, business areas, organizational functions and business processes and methods, and are closely tied to the overall digital business transformation and cloudification trends of enterprises, globally. This ISG Provider Lens™ study examines the different kinds of network offerings related to software-defined networking (SD networking) globally. These include SD-WAN (managed, co-managed and non-managed) and associated core and mobility service offerings related to these segments, transformation services and the increasingly crucial edge technologies and enterprise 5G solutions. This study highlights the changing market requirements and provides an overview of the segments. It also gives concrete decision-making support to help user organizations evaluate and assess the offerings and performance of providers.
Most telecommunication service suppliers, network service suppliers and systems integrators have an expansive portfolio of SD-WAN and other SD networking solutions. These range from partial or function-specific solutions to complete end-to-end SD network solutions, with many solutions differing based on enterprise size, scope of offering, industry type or desired reach and interaction between enterprises and customers/end users. Others have introduced advanced SD-network-based technological innovations such as intent-based networks that utilize artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) interactions and control, or edge intelligence and computing solutions, with SD-LAN or SD-WMLAN, sometimes coupled with enterprise 4G/5G mobility solutions. This is further driven by the transition of many enterprises to cloud and multicloud environments that are well supported by SD networking, from enterprise core to edge.
Further change in the market is also apparent with the early stages of pilots and implementation around fully integrated secure enterprise network (ISEN) environments, (also known as secure access, secure edge or SASE), despite a multitude of definitions and lack of industry standardization. At present, it accounts for 5 to 8 percent of network deployment revenues, (based on provider feedback to ISG), with a strong growth forecast over the next 12 to 24 months.
Many companies reviewed for this study are involved in production-level deployments; others are focused on specific areas (edge or private enterprise 5G) and are more in the proof of concept (PoC) or pilot stages. Concurrently, new technologies, methods and processes are under trial. This evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach, taken together with the relative newness of SD networking leads ISG to note that significant volatility exists in the constellation of market providers. The volatility is set to continue and may even intensify during the remainder of 2021 as SD networking strengthens its hold in the enterprise landscape and the partnerships or M&A between providers increase.
In our recently published ISG Provider Lens™ study on Networks – Software Defined Solutions and Services 2021, we examined the requirements and capabilities of the provider landscape globally as well as in specific geographies within the following segments:
Managed (SD) WAN Services
Managed SD-WAN provides the benefits of SDN technology over traditional hardwarebased networking. It is an overlay architecture that provides a networking foundation, which is easier to manage than legacy WANs. It essentially moves the control layer to the cloud and, in the process, centralizes and simplifies network management. This overlay design abstracts software from hardware, enabling network virtualization and making the network more elastic. Suppliers have been increasingly active as managed service providers, offering complete managed SD-WAN solutions to enterprises and providing them as white-label services that telco providers or integrators offer to clients as a part of broader strategic implementations; in this context, suppliers offer managed SD-WAN solutions, including hybrid Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)/IP or MPLS/SDN offerings or SDN through cloud to edge.
Transformation Services (Consulting and Implementation)
To stay competitive using SD networking and associated strategies, technologies, methods and processes requires aligning on a vision for the future state, creating a business case for change and agreeing on a roadmap to get there; it also includes defining, planning and leveraging leading technologies to dramatically transform enterprise network operations and customer experiences, while streamlining processes to ensure lasting change. Indepth knowledge of both the enterprise and the industry, as well as the technologies and solution capabilities, is mandatory. Transformation services help companies formulate their strategy and implement it to enhance their performance through SD networking. Advisors analyze the company’s business structure and intents, network technologies and infrastructure, processes, methods, people and organization, to both strengthen its shortterm performance and plan network transformation to deliver and maintain sustainable long-term improvement.
Transformation service providers, from initial advisory to full or partial solution implementation and operations. They have become mature in this field, leveraging successful use cases, integrated designs, predefined processes and technology. They can also advise on suitable partner products and services as well as implementation possibilities. Suppliers have been active in directly selling SD-WAN advisory, planning, transition and implementation solutions to enterprises for their DIY (enterprises’ own and non-managed) or co-managed deployments, and are increasingly partnering with licensed telco/service providers for their delivery packages.
WAN Equipment and Service Suppliers (DIY)
SD-WAN is still one of the fastest-growing areas of technology and innovation in enterprises, allowing for innovative service rollouts and provisioning of the same in a much easier and cost-effective manner. Unlike the earlier hardware-based networks, it eliminates vendor lock-in and associated risks. It offers easy enablement of cloudbased and one-click management as well as potential cost reduction, often requiring fewer technical staff for operation. SD-WAN is, therefore, essential for enterprises that are already exploring intent-based networking (AI/MI based) and cloud and multicloud strategies, or are keen on implementing these in the near to mid-term. However, many enterprises are not willing to fully relinquish the management/control of their networks to third parties or even purchase fully managed SD-WAN solutions, preferring, for a variety of reasons, to keep such activities in house. For these enterprises, many providers have been directly selling SD-WAN solutions for their DIY (enterprise owned and non-managed) or comanaged solutions between an enterprise and a provider. In co-management, providers are increasingly partnering with licensed telco/service providers to offer delivery packages in this space, allowing co-management of solutions, where some aspects of the enterprise solution is retained under management by the enterprise, while some are given out to the provider to be undertaken as fully managed services.
Technology and Service Suppliers (Core – 4G/5G)
SD technology is an approach to networking that eliminates the complex and static nature of legacy distributed network architectures by using a standards-based software abstraction layer between the network control plane and underlying data forwarding plane in both physical and virtual devices. SD technology enables improvements in network agility and automation, while substantially reducing the cost of network operations when compared with traditional network deployments. Adopting an industry standard data plane abstraction protocol allows the use of any type and brand of data plane devices as all the underlying network hardware is addressable through a common abstraction protocol. These are considered as core network functions. Additionally, all mobile and wireless components may be managed and dealt with in the same manner as core and SD-WAN components. The SD capabilities cover branch functionality and are associated Wi-Fi networks, access points (APs), and to 4G/5G connectivity technologies.
This section covers all vendors of SD core and mobile/wireless services that are directly purchased by enterprises or service providers for specific client projects. It also includes suppliers offering solutions that can be integrated into an enterprise-wide SD networking strategy, overarching from the core through to the 4G/5G mobile edge access.
Edge Technologies and Services
Edge technologies, services and computing are the current trends in the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT) world. With the localized processing of data, security and privacy has improved because any breach can be managed locally and not passed onto the WAN or cloud and thus back to central enterprise to provide the defense. In IoT edge computing and networking, the data from various connected devices of the IoT ecosystem are typically collected in a local device, analyzed on the network, and then transferred to the central data center or cloud. As the number of connected devices has increased exponentially, the data volume generated is multifold. Interim processing is thus required to ensure cost reduction and increased efficiency. This, in turn, places much emphasis on efficient and SD edge capability networks and connectivity capabilities.
Edge components may be managed and dealt with in the same manner as core and SD-WAN components, with software-defined capabilities to include the branch and edge functionality, as well as all customer premises equipment (universal or virtual CPE known as uCPE or vCPE) and associated software-defined mobile networks (SDMNs) and software-defined local area networks (SD-LANs) that include both wireless (SD-WLAN) or mobile (SD-WMLAN), as well as IoT or IIoT sensors and devices or control/security devices.
Enterprise 5G Solutions
Fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks or wireless systems are the standards in telecommunications after the current fourth generation/long term evolution (4G/LTE) technology, and are designed to provide higher capacity than these, allowing a greater density (10 to 100 times greater) of mobile broadband users or connected devices at higher transfer speeds, supporting more device-to-device, reliable and massive machine communications. It is also aimed at lower latency and battery consumption than 4G equipment. This segment covers specifically private 5G, referring to 5G deployments on campus (also known as 5G campus network) or other land/building areas that are generally not open to the public without specific access protocol; events/stadiums where entry tickets are required are also included in this. Private 5G is targeted at flexible connectivity, mobile high-speed data and IoT, including IIoT or narrowband IoT (NB-IoT). It will be connected to a local control and management system, which may, in turn, be integrated within the overall enterprise network and management systems if overarching integrated control and management is required. It may connect into overall enterprise networks by either private “slicing” or public “slicing” via private networks, cloud or public cloud. It may allow access to the public present within a 5G Campus (by either Wi-Fi or other wireless connection, or by 5G GSMA data connection used as a LAN) to connect to local network functionality and data, as well as voice.
All of the data gathered and analysis undertaken during the process of creation of the Networks – Software Defined Solutions and Service Partners 2021 IPL study was used as direct input into this archetype report, and has helped shape the analysis for this archetype.
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