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Are On-Premises Network Services Evaporating into the Cloud?

By Al Matukonis and Jim Newman

Many organizations today have neither the interest nor the ability to leverage sophisticated network design and management techniques to arrive at the required business solutions. This is why the network (or WAN) as-a-service model has received such a hearty welcome. As-a-service solutions allow an organization to focus on managing demand and leave the service delivery up to a provider. We’ve seen tremendous adoption of this model by organizations that are choosing to manage their information technology, operational technology and human resources processes with software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications like ServiceNow and Workday.

This means the wide area network (WAN) that ties all these solutions together is becoming more complex. At the same time, it also is undergoing serious reinvention with virtualization and provisioning automation. Many enterprises are finding they don’t want to deal with the complexities of designing, securing, implementing, purchasing and managing the networks that now must tie together multiple SaaS providers, cloud providers, data centers, manufacturers, laboratories, call centers and offices.

The same transformation that is impacting how companies purchase cloud-based applications and services is now impacting the way they purchase WAN. The process of acquiring WAN services is transitioning from a dark art to a less complex, cloud-like service model.

What are the business realities in the new WAN-as-a-service world? Enterprises interested in pursuing WAN-as-a-service can expect the following benefits:

  1. An agile solution that meets business objectives. Today, enterprises can focus on outcomes and leave the technical aspects of purchasing circuits, software, equipment and the complex job of managing WAN to a service provider. Current WAN-as-a-service providers are leveraging their own products, services and knowledge to deliver a consistent, stable, reliable and latency-optimized WAN connectivity.

  2. An as-a-service delivery model. WAN services are fully managed by the provider, with 24x7 support and SLAs defined in a pay-as-you-go, non-CapEx arrangement. Providers also are able to offer WAN dashboards that allow for real-time WAN visibility.

  3. A complete networking solution. WAN-as-a-service providers typically bundle multiple communication links from different carriers, managed routers, global load balancing, optimization and firewalls. The end result is a less expensive, best-of-breed solution with all the complexities of integration handled by the provider.

  4. A solution that addresses security requirements. Providers have access to the most up-to-date threat databases, which gives them the information they need to make sure the tools and patches being used are up to date. Competition to provide the most reliable and available connectivity will continue to motivate providers to improve their services to the benefit of their clients. Providers are already introducing improvements in last-mile technology, for example, which has been a common source of network failures.

  5. Ongoing service management. In a typical global WAN model, enterprises must monitor and manage change for end-to-end communication path elements. Providers are doing this today via managed routers at each of their customers’ locations and their own third-party relationships, so enterprise buyers no longer have to.

Of course, enterprise buyers of WAN services must still hold providers accountable for the business outcomes they sign up for. Change, latency, availability and service restoration should be within targets based on the architecture purchased, and enforcing these service levels is the buyer’s job. But, while risk management traditionally has rested on the enterprise’s shoulders, transitioning to a managed services operating model means the business can share risk with the service provider.

Moving your network to an as-a-service model requires relevant risk analysis and mitigation steps specific to your business. ISG has the experience to guide clients on their networking-as-a-service journey. We help enterprises find the networking solutions and services that work best for them. Contact us to discuss further.

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