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SDN providers nibbling away at slow-moving MPLS carriers

Clint Boulton | July 12, 2016
Another mid-sized enterprise has dropped an incumbent MPLS provider for a younger, more nimble service provider, in this case choosing a hybrid MPLS/SDN network for speed, flexibility and cost savings. (Updated on July 11, 2016.)

Impressed by Masergy’s capability to anticipate bottlenecks and answer his questions, Long gambled and planned to make the switch in 60 days. On the cutover date, he pulled the plug on Verizon and began running solely on Masergy in a single weekend. The migration was seamless and Long’s respect for his new partner grew. “I kept pushing Masergy to help me with what I don't know because that’s where the value of a partner is,” Long says.

The MPLS supports Pattonair’s WAN environment, while the SDN manages line speeds and capacity to balance traffic, enabling him to throttle bandwidth up or down as he requires. For now, SDN supports considerable streaming of YouTube videos for corporate training and Skype for Business. But Long is banking on the service to support Pattonair’s eventual migration to Microsoft Office 365 for 1,000 employees, part of the company’s plan to rely more on cloud software. He says that SDNs’ flexibility is a boon at a time when cloud apps can be “network killers,” with bandwidth costs often proving unwieldy.

Such concerns have Long thinking about how to implement Office 365 and other cloud services in the future. “Instead of adding bigger pipes, we've got to be smarter about how we move the information around our network and that's a prime candidate to adopt more of the SDN technology."

Innovator's dilemma comes to networking

A customer occasionally switching doesn't raise many eyebrows, but IDC networking analyst Brad Casemore says businesses are defecting in significant numbers from incumbent carriers to emerging providers of SDNs, SD-WANs and MPLS systems. Service King Collision Repair Centers and financial services firm Greenhill & Co. are among those that have recently moved to SD-WAN systems.

As a result, Casemore says telecommunications carriers that have made a healthy living from MPLS services are facing a bit of an innovator’s dilemma. “They don't want to welcome this whole trend with open arms but they realize they have to respond to it,” Casemore says. For example, he says Verizon has rolled out its own SD-WAN solution and is reselling a similar service from Viptela. However, he adds that Verizon must also protect its MPLS cash cow. “Large telcos are struggling to decide [to what extent] they hang on to as much as MPLS as they can or cannibalize part of it,” Casemore says.

Casemore says that customers are looking for options that are more aligned with how quickly they need to “turn up services, and how quickly they need to move to cloud.”  He says the market for software-defined services is growing rapidly. IDC expects the SDN market, comprising physical network infrastructure, virtualization software, SDN applications and professional services, will be worth nearly $12.5 billion in 2020. SD-WAN is expected to top $6 billion by the same period.


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