Network service providers (NSPs) are always looking for new ways to differentiate their offerings for enterprise customers. To do this, they must capitalize on the trends of network modernization. Specifically, NSPs need to evolve their networks for a digital-first future, moving from physical network infrastructure to virtual, software-defined networks. Only by making this shift can they ensure the agility, flexibility and cost-efficiency needed to thrive in the digital age.
One example of how NSPs can modernize their networks is by optimizing their approach to SD-WAN. Offerings based on optimized SD-WAN infrastructure are attractive to enterprise customers because they give those customers greater control over how and where their data flows over the network. For this reason, it’s no wonder many NSPs are prioritizing SD-WAN as part of their service offerings—either by directly integrating the technology themselves or by partnering with a SaaS provider that specializes in SD-WAN. Either way, we’ve reached the point where NSPs can no longer put off SD-WAN optimization if they wish to remain competitive.
SD-WAN is evolving constantly, and this evolution is redefining what NSPs and their customers can accomplish using the technology. Most NSPs realize that SD-WAN is application aware, but the reverse is also true: Applications are becoming more SD-WAN aware. By this, I mean that developers can be empowered to build applications that can control exactly how their traffic flows over the network. In effect, SD-WAN is living up to the “software defined” part of its name like never before. It’s easy to see why enterprises would want to partner with the NSP that can best position them to take advantage of this trend.
SD-WAN optimization starts with location, location, location
To truly capitalize on the latest evolutions of SD-WAN and empower developers to create network-aware applications, it’s essential that you place your SD-WAN infrastructure in the right locations. This is especially true if you’re a mobile operator who’s trying to make SD-WAN a part of your 5G service offerings.
As my colleagues and I argued in a recent blog, it’s important for NSPs to host the user plane function (UPF) for their 5G networks at the digital edge; doing so enables reliable low latency and operational efficiency. In a similar way, it’s very important for NSPs to host their SD-WAN gateways in close proximity to the UPF. Like the UPF, the SD-WAN gateway can be deployed as a containerized, cloud-native function. This enables quick and repeatable deployment and the flexibility to manage and scale the SD-WAN gateway as needed.
When NSPs deploy both their UPFs and SD-WAN gateways in proximity to one another at the digital edge, they can ensure low-latency connectivity between the two components. In addition, they can ensure that the traffic control priorities and characteristics are preserved between the two functions. As the NSP, you’ll benefit from this because it will make it easier for you to consistently meet your SLAs. Your enterprise customers will benefit because they’ll be able to take advantage of application-aware routing.
This means that the SD-WAN gateway will break out all the public traffic coming from the 5G network and dump it directly to the public IP domain. The private traffic that remains will be passed to private networks. This traffic breakout capability is very important for enterprise applications. Enterprises need to secure and guarantee delivery of their most sensitive traffic. Working with an NSP that offers optimized SD-WAN helps ensure they can achieve this quickly and consistently.
Aggregating traffic in one place benefits both service providers and enterprises
Another reason that NSPs (and their enterprise customers) stand to benefit from SD-WAN optimization is that it allows them to aggregate traffic from multiple sources in one place. This could be particularly beneficial if you have an enterprise customer that handles a lot of data from both mobile users and fixed wireless users. These two sets of traffic both originate on public IP, so it only makes sense that you would want to keep both sets of traffic on a single IP domain. Having an optimized SD-WAN solution in place makes this kind of traffic aggregation possible.
When your customer traffic doesn’t have to cross multiple IP domains, it helps you keep costs down. It also helps you maximize the return on the capital and operational investments you’ve made into your IP peering infrastructure. For enterprise customers, having all their traffic concentrated in a single location makes it easier to break out their traffic between their own public IP domain and their private enterprise network. It’s a true win-win situation for everyone involved.
Learn how Platform Equinix can support your SD-WAN optimization goals
According to a recent blog by my Equinix colleague Tobias Schaub, there are three characteristics that define true SD-WAN optimization: speed, flexibility and choice. Digital infrastructure services from Equinix—including Equinix Metal® for Bare Metal as a Service, Network Edge for virtual network functions (VNFs), and Equinix Fabric® for software-defined interconnection—can help you achieve all three of these critical traits:
- Equinix digital services are fast because they’re available on demand, without the need for time-consuming physical infrastructure deployment.
- Equinix digital services are flexible because they’re fully virtual; you can scale or adapt your SD-WAN infrastructure with the push of a button.
- Equinix digital services give you the choice to deploy your SD-WAN gateway how you like: in one of our global colocation data centers, as a VNF or on single-tenant bare metal.
For more examples of how Equinix can help NSPs optimize their infrastructure to meet enterprise demand for advanced technology, read the white paper Create a digital advantage at software speed.