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How do SD-WAN as a service and managed SD-WAN differ?

Software-defined WAN technology is available in a variety of business models, including SD-WAN as a service and managed SD-WAN services. But how do these two models compare?

Software-defined WAN technology is a popular way to improve connectivity in distributed organizations with branch offices. A wide range of suppliers offer SD-WAN services in different business models and methods of consumption. SD-WAN is available, for example, as an appliance, through software licenses, through SD-WAN as a service and as a managed service. Each purchasing model has its specific benefits and disadvantages.

Managed SD-WAN services

One common approach to SD-WAN is as a managed service. A managed network service is a business model in which networking applications and services are fully outsourced to a service provider. The service provider supplies the hardware, software, networking and transport services required to deliver the application or service, with appropriate service-level agreements (SLAs) for uptime and performance. The managed service provider (MSP) is responsible for monitoring, managing and securing the WAN service. Pricing is typically via a one-year or multiyear service contract, and it's usually based on the number of customer sites, locations, link speeds and related SLAs.

Managed network services are a popular method for IT teams to outsource the headaches of providing connectivity to their branches and data centers. Organizations rely on companies like AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink to run their WANs. MSPs are rapidly adding SD-WAN technologies to their managed services portfolios -- usually in partnership with an SD-WAN technology provider, like Cisco, VMware, Riverbed, Citrix, CloudGenix or Versa Networks.

SD-WAN as a service vs. managed SD-WAN
Compare SD-WAN as a service and managed SD-WAN services.

SD-WAN as a service

Software as a service is a software distribution model in which a third-party provider hosts applications and makes them available to customers over a network. SaaS is a technology delivery model priced primarily as a monthly subscription. With SD-WAN as a service, the customer is typically responsible for monitoring, managing and changing the SD-WAN service through a cloud-based management portal. The end customer may be required to contract with one or more service providers for WAN connectivity -- like MPLS, broadband internet or 4G Long Term Evolution -- to its branch locations.

SD-WAN-as-a-service customers receive the benefit of having the latest functionality, with easy upgradability through cloud-based management. Customers pay for the features they use and have the agility to increase or decrease the levels of functionality.

Aryaka, Mode and Cato Networks offer SD-WAN-as-a-service offerings that include private WAN connectivity. Many other SD-WAN technology providers offer their software via subscription in a SaaS-like model. Doyle Research expects more as-a-service offering types to be introduced over the next year or so. 

This was last published in August 2018

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Which business model of SD-WAN services would your organization prefer?
Hi Lee Doyle

Mode actually does not offer SD-WAN as a service. We offer SD-Core which can be used along with any SD-WAN device vendor. SD-Core is just a NaaS.

Hi Lee, you should include Silver Peak as one of the SD-WAN vendors that MSPs partner for their managed service. NTT Communications, China Telcom Global, GTT, Masergy and TPx are just a few such providers. Also, Fujitsu Network Communications offers a SD-WAN-as-a-service as well