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CenturyLink chooses Versa Networks for new managed SD-WAN service

CenturyLink is the latest provider to roll out a new managed SD-WAN service -- using technology from Versa Networks -- which it plans to make widely available later this year.

CenturyLink is rolling out a new managed software-defined WAN service with technology from Versa Networks, a Santa Clara, Calif., SDN startup that emerged from stealth mode in late 2015. The provider reported more than 10 enterprises are currently piloting the service, which it plans to make widely available later in the year.

CenturyLink CTO Aamir Hussain said a number of factors prompted the service provider to develop a managed SD-WAN service, citing the strain that cloud-based applications, media streaming and analytics place on enterprise networks today. Without significant increases to their traditional private network budgets, Hussain said enterprises are challenged to meet these ever-growing demands.

In the past year, several service providers have launched managed SD-WAN services as a way to help enterprises take some of the cost and complexity out of wide-area networking. In general, the services offer customers a combination of MPLS and broadband links to help them increase available bandwidth, while keeping costs in check. While enterprises can achieve similar benefits by purchasing SD-WAN technology directly from vendors, these services let them offload the burdens of infrastructure management onto a carrier.

Lee Doyle, principal analyst at Doyle Research in Wellesley, Mass., said the demands facing enterprises are in effect forcing providers to offer managed SD-WAN options, because enterprises increasingly look for alternatives to expensive, private MPLS links.

"All Tier 1 and Tier 2 service providers are going to have to come up with an SD-WAN strategy that encompasses a range of connectivity options between MPLS, internet, mobile and others," Doyle said. "That's what customers want, and if [service providers] won't do it, their competitors will. They have no choice."

In addition to making use of inexpensive broadband connectivity to address growing bandwidth needs, technology such as Versa's allows users to turn up new branch locations quickly. CenturyLink said its new managed SD-WAN service also enables centralized WAN management, implements software-defined security, increases network visibility and reduces downtime.

"It's another example of a significant announcement by a large U.S. carrier moving in this direction, and we'll see a lot more," Doyle said.

CenturyLink's news comes about a year after Verizon first revealed it was offering managed SD-WAN services to select enterprise customers. Last fall, Verizon rolled out managed SD-WAN services available to its entire customer base using Cisco IWAN. It then launched another widely available service using Viptela technology earlier this year. And service provider Vonage also said in late 2015 it would begin offering managed SD-WAN services built on technology from SD-WAN startup VeloCloud.

In related news, VeloCloud reported this week Deutsche Telekom has deployed its technology between Germany and the United States. The carrier used SD-WAN to connect its innovation lab headquarters in Berlin with its innovation center in Mountain View, Calif.

According to Gartner analysts, SD-WAN adoption rates are currently low, with less than 1% of enterprises using the technology. They predicted, however, that number will soar to 30% by the end of 2019. IDC projected the market will be worth more than $6 billion the following year.

Next Steps

Managed SD-WAN services: Are providers sabotaging themselves?

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