State of the WAN: Dan Pitt

With the WAN world facing unprecedented challenges, how will buyers and sellers respond? We spoke to 16 people across the spectrum to discover where they think the important areas will be over the next few years.

Dan Pitt, Senior Advisor, Palo Alto Innovation Networks

“The need for multi-vendor SD-WAN is more prevalent than many people think. When a new technology emerges, customers often try one vendor to get to know the technology. Maybe they try a second one later or somewhere else but it’s not been common for them to have significant installations of multiple vendors. With SD-WAN, a surprising number of major network operators do have significant deployments of multiple vendors. Why is this? There are many reasons. When one company acquires another, they could be using different vendors. When procurement decisions are made by individual business units, they can use different vendors. When different vendors’ products meet distinct business needs, the same customer can end up with multiple vendors. What happens in most of these cases, however, is that the customer needs to treat the different solutions with some commonality. It is that commonality that lends importance to the concept of multi-vendor SD-WAN.

“Important progress is already being made in defining a standard for the interface between the service orchestrator and the SD-WAN controller. A standard interface allows a single customer service orchestration system to control SD-WANs from different vendors in a common fashion. This is the industry’s most pressing need at the moment. It requires the specification of the most popular SD-WAN services and behaviors. So far the industry has made good progress in agreeing on these initial services and behaviors, but as more types of services emerge the standards will need to evolve to incorporate them. Vendor extensions will likely proliferate for a while, offering customers specialized capabilities but inhibiting standard orchestration. This tension between standardization and innovation is normal and the market will decide the balance.

“At some point, network operators will demand a standard interface between SD-WAN controllers and the SD-WAN edge, so that operators can select SD-WAN edges based on their respective price, performance, and features, not just their compatibility with a given SD-WAN controller. We are several years away from this.

“Eventually, SD-WAN will evolve to become a platform for (network) edge services, and various functions, including those that today are labeled as SD-WAN functions along with new ones, will simply present to the market as VNFs. Multi-vendor SD-WAN will then include the aspect of multi-vendor NFVI so that anyone’s VNF will run on anyone’s SD-WAN platform. At that point our conversation will be about computing, not networking.”