CenturyLink Introduces Managed SD-WAN Service

The service provider starting next quarter will offer the service for customers who are looking to make their networks more agile and affordable.


Service provider CenturyLink is unveiling a fully managed software-defined WAN service designed to help customers make their networking environments more agile and scalable, easier to manage and more affordable.

The company is adding the SD-WAN service to its portfolio of managed networking offerings, with officials saying the managed service will enable organizations to unify their network management across disparate network types and run their workloads over the best-available transport model. The new service comes as businesses look for ways to mold the networks that run in their branch and remote offices into infrastructures that can handle the changing demands being driven by such trends as cloud computing, data analytics, mobility and video streaming, according to CenturyLink CTO Aamir Hussain.

"Without significant increases to their traditional private network budgets, enterprises are challenged to meet these ever-growing demands, improve the end-user experience and ensure security and application performance," Hussain said in a statement.

Over the past couple of decades, the WAN has relied on such connectivity protocols as Synchronous Optical Network (SONET), Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS). However, these transport modes arose at a time when data was relatively static and traffic primarily traveled between the remote office and the central data center. Now, applications and workloads move between the branch office and the cloud, and data can come from a broad array of mobile devices.

SD-WAN promises the ability to run traffic over multiple modes, including expensive MPLS and more affordable, newer alternatives, and to be able to manage it all centrally with such features as zero-touch and traffic prioritization capabilities.

The market for SD-WAN is growing quickly, with IDC analysts expecting it to expand from about $225 million last year to more than $6 billion by 2020. Gartner analysts have said that while about 1 percent of enterprises currently are using SD-WAN technology, the number will increase to 30 percent by the end of 2019.

The space is attracting a wide range of players, from established networking vendors like Cisco Systems, Riverbed Technology and Juniper Networks to pure-play startups like VeloCloud, Talari Networks, Viptela and CloudGenix. In addition, service providers—such as Verizon, BT and MeTel—are beginning to roll out new managed offerings for their customers.

CenturyLink officials said the company's managed service can bundle connectivity, equipment, software licensing, configuration, performance tuning and monitoring with a management and analytics portal. Through the offering, customers can manage their own policies or let CenturyLink do that job, and can build standalone SD-WAN environments or embrace hybrid approaches. CenturyLink also can manage connectivity from an array of providers through an aggregated solution, officials said.

Benefits of the service include unified management, access to broadband connectivity for high-bandwidth applications, the ability to quickly add new locations, add on-demand features without having to buy more hardware and the ability to implement and enforce a wide range of security controls.

CenturyLInk SD-WAN is being used in pilot tests by more than 10 enterprises and will be generally available in the third quarter.

In addition, the service provider is offering customers a free, 90-day proof-of-concept (PoC) for businesses that are interested in testing SD-WAN within their own WAN. Throughout the PoC, CenturyLink will deliver the customer-premises devices, access to the management portal and support for up to five sites.