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Benchmarking UK WAN as a Service: Who Stands Out?

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SD-WAN as a Service: The Future of Managed Network Solutions

WAN as a Service (WaaS) enables organisations to utilise the cloud when procuring fully managed or co-managed WAN infrastructure. The WaaS model vastly simplifies network management and scales easily to accommodate an increasing reliance on cloud-based applications and services.

  • Deployability: WaaS allows for rapid deployment across various locations by abstracting the underlying hardware.
  • Connectivity: Organisations utilise Internet leased lines, MPLS, VPLS or VPN using various transport services for optimal performance.

Traditional WAN services have been implemented via dedicated edge hardware (routers), but as networking technology has evolved, so too have the methods of managing and deploying networks. The advent of WAN as a Service (WANaaS) has transformed how businesses access, utilise, and manage their WAN infrastructure.

WANaaS is a model where WAN capabilities are provided to businesses as a subscription service. This approach leverages cloud-based software to create a network that can adapt and scale according to an organisation’s requirements. By using a subscription model, companies can often receive a better ROI vs the traditional model which requires hardware acquisition and maintenance.

WANaaS offerings  include a range of options but mostly surround SD-WAN (Software-Defined WAN) with SASE / SSE security features, and customisable network management options.

SD-WAN utilises software-defined networking (SDN) concepts to automatically determine the most effective way to route traffic to remote locations. SD-WAN services offer dynamic path selection across Internet leased lines, MPLS, 4G/5G, or broadband internet services, which meets both traffic performance and resilience requirements. By integrating SD-WAN into WANaaS, businesses are able to quickly deploy, secure and manage branch-office sites and remote users.

In this article, we'll explain SD-WAN as a Service and compare 4 leading providers.

Challenges with Traditional WAN Architectures

Limitations of MPLS and IPsec VPNs

Traditional WAN services were often based on layer 3 MPLS, layer 2 VPLS or IPsec VPNs to connect geographical locations and remote users. MPLS has long been the default choice based on capability to manage traffic under service provider SLA's directly aligned to QoS (Quality of Service). However, MPLS-based services are restrictive due to the massive growth of public Cloud applications and are generally associated with higher cost.

Legacy MPLS is not inherently designed for the rapid scaling requirements of current enterprise networks, which often requires quick setup of both branch-office sites and remote users. The process to provision new MPLS circuits often spans months, whereas SD-WAN as a Service can be turned up within minutes if Internet access exists. 

Traditional WAN edge routers managing IPsec tunnels often requires complex configurations and on-going maintenance. This added complexity leads to increased operational overheads and the need for more skilled IT staff to manage the network.

The transition towards cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) has essentially reduced the rollout of standard IPSec VPN services and vastly reduced MPLS sales. As businesses store more data in the cloud, the reliance on private network connections leads to inefficient routing and performance bottlenecks. The pivot towards public cloud-as-a-service is the reason why WAN as Service is popular with businesses used to paying for services they consume.

Rise of Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) As a Service

Rise of Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) As a Service

Growth and Benefits of SD-WAN

SD-WAN technology is now the default option for any business requiring secure connectivity between branch-office sites, public Cloud and remote users. The reasons are well known and generally encompass the following:

  • Cost Reduction: SD-WAN can reduce operational costs by using underlay services from multiple providers.
  • Performance Improvement: Enterprises can generally improve the performance of applications by leveraging dynamic path selection features to optimise data routing based on almost real-time network conditions.
  • Enhanced Efficiency: SD-WAN recognise the majority of SaaS applications out of the box and can therefore assign policies for QoS and Security based on the organisations rules.
  • Increased Security: SD-WAN can offer advanced SASE and SSE security features which include advanced Next-generation Firewall, Intrusion protection, Cloud Security Broker and Secure Web Gateway.
  • Scalability: It allows businesses to scale their network bandwidth via Zero-touch provisioning and the ability to add Internet circuits to increase bandwidth.
Benefit Description
Enhanced Connectivity and Reliability Improves network connectivity and uptime, reducing the need for traditional network links.
Increased Bandwidth and Efficiency Optimises network performance and provides reliable access to applications, data, and cloud services.
Easier Network Management Centralised network management and control, reducing complexity and maintenance costs.
Improved Cybersecurity and Protection Enhances security by ensuring secure data transmission and supporting best practices such as Zero Trust Network Access.
Adaptability to Demand Changes Allows quick/automated adjustment of bandwidth to accommodate changes or new applications.
Increased Flexibility Utilises multiple transport options for easier and cost-effective connectivity of branch locations.
Reduced Costs Lowers expenses related to IP circuits, deployment, and IT management.
Improved Application and Network Performance Prevents performance-intensive applications from affecting low-latency applications and enhances cloud application performance.
Improved User Experience Ensures a superior user experience for remote users through efficient and secure cloud connectivity.
Increased Uptime Integrates various internet transport options, which ensures high network uptime with features like load balancing.

Market Trends and Pricing in UK WAN Services

The Wide Area Network market within the UK is highly competitive and primarily serves enterprise and public sector clients. Constant improvement and innovation from services providers along with significant infrastructure investment has resulted in a buyers market for UK companies. These developments have led to WAN services being faster, more flexible and more reliable than ever.

In terms of cost, the UK WAN market has seen a consistent decline in prices across the majority of services. High bandwidth (over 100Mb/s) Ethernet services continue to decrease in price, aligning with increasing bandwidth demands. This trend has led to more cost-effective deals for consumers, particularly in procurement and renewal scenarios. In contrast, lower bandwidth (less than 50Mb/s) pricing, while continuing to erode, shows signs of stabilising.

The result of these trends indicate a favourable market environment for WAN-as-a-Service in particular. With the growing focus on scalability and flexibility, WANaaS is becoming increasingly pertinent. Customers have enhanced access to these services from a variety of providers, with networking solutions that can adapt to their changing business requirements. Varied pricing is a strategy that is becoming more prevalent, which allows for customers to find the perfect individual solution.

Comparative Analysis of 4 UK WAN-as-a-Service Providers

To help your business compare SD WAN as a Service providers, we've reviewed 4 leading UK propositions.

SD-WAN as a Service Comparison

BT Business SD WaaS

BT Business offers a range of WAN services with a particular focus on managed services and global solutions for large businesses. These services are tailored to meet the diverse needs of fast paced organisations that require reliable and scalable network solutions.

BT Managed WAN Services

One of BT Businesses main product offering is having your WAN managed by themselves. Services within this managed WAN offering include support, ensuring consistent network performance and security. The BT service is  specifically designed to allow organisations to have more of a hands off approach, allowing them to focus on other aspects of the business. Customers can effortlessly connect locations regardless of their geographical distance.

BT Cloud-Based and Security Services

BT Business offers cloud-based services, which are essential in this day and age, as a part of its network offering. These services include; Unified Communications (UC), Virtual Data Centre and their state of the art Next Generation Contact Centre. With regards to security, BT provides Managed Endpoint Detection and Response, using AI powered insights for real-time monitoring and threat blocking, Managed Embedded Security Controls with Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) capabilities and Managed Firewalls for network protection.

BT Data Centre and Communication Services

Another offering of BT Business is data centre solutions which are suitable for businesses of varied sizes and at different stages of virtualization or cloud migration. Communication solutions include BT Cloud Work, BT One Phone, MiCloud UC and One Cloud Cisco are available and offer customers flexible, cloud-based platforms for collaborative working.

BT Other Corporate Service

Corporate services include Teams Voice Calling by Microsoft, offering integrated/replacement solutions for existing VoIP systems. BT offers One Voice SIP as an IP alternative to traditional voice services. Their enterprise mobile solution is recognised as secure, scalable and reliable. They encourage digital enablement for building resilience.

Masergy (Comcast subsidiary) SD WaaS

Masergy (acquired by Comcast in August 2021) is a leading provider of network solutions. The Masergy solutions include SD-WAN, Security, Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) and Contact Centre-as-a-Service (CCaaS). Masergy are known for offering services which leverage AI to enhance performance and security.

Masergy Managed SD-WAN and SASE Solutions

Masergy offers high performing SD-WAN and SASE solutions which cater to businesses of all sizes. Clients can select from various network setups, access types and security services. With regards to security, Masergy offers NGFWs and tiered security options which can be either fully managed or co-managed by the client. An important feature to note is the integration of direct connections to top cloud services and applications such as AWS, Azure and GCP. They also provide a unique solution known as Managed SD-WAN OTT (over the top). This is where a secure overlay network is created on top of any public or private network, helping companies of all sizes to take advantage of an internet-only approach for transport.

Masergy Managed Security Services

With a wide range of security services, Masergy offers managed network, cloud and endpoint security. Their approach to this integrates a 24/7 incident response service with network traffic analytics, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and NGFW. Cloud security solutions include Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) and Office 365 monitoring. Their endpoint security covers a broad spectrum of threats, including ransomware and malware, using AI powered tools to achieve this.

Masergy Advanced Security Analytics and Threat Intelligence

Boasting over 20 years of threat intelligence and analysing over 45 billion security events annually. Masergy’s security analytics engine is designed to evaluate traffic patterns to detect anomalies and provide a detailed threat response plan. This includes real-time data monitoring paired with extended historical data for contextual retrospective analysis. Masergy offers identity based WAN edge analytics which enables Zero Trust security and provides unique visibility for every user on the corporate network.

Masergy Service Options and Benefits

Masergy’s managed security solutions are designed to be an out-of-the-box service which provides total coverage for the network. Their approach maximises ROI by integrating with existing technical services. Customers can benefit from a simple and budget friendly pricing model based on the number of endpoints, user's and sites. Masergy also offers 24/7 security teams based at the global SOCs spread across three continents (North America, Europe and Asia). Through collaboration with Comcast Business, Masergy delivers a range of managed WAN services and security solutions.

GTT SD WaaS

GTT’s SD-WAN service, as a part of their extensive product offerings, is designed to enhance their customers network reliability, visibility and improvement to user experience. Offering both fully managed and co managed models, the customer is responsible for selecting the underlying technology

GTT Flexible and Cost Effective Connectivity

GTT’s SD-WAN service provides cost-effective solutions with excellent return on investment. With research into the industry, GTT claims that customers experience a three-year ROI of 213% and the initial investment payback being 6 months. Compared to others, GTT is clear about their pricing.

GTT Enhanced Network Reliability and Management

GTT’s service offerings include; application-aware dynamic routing, encryption and tunnelling of traffic, unified NGFW and overall network optimisation for enhanced performance and reliability. Network circuits are automatically monitored and optimised to minimise latency, jitter and packet loss, ensuring a virtually uninterrupted service.

GTT Improved Network Visibility and User Experience Control

GTT’s SD-WAN offering provides a single pane of glass view for network management, with zero-touch provisioning and real-time analytics. It centralises policy automation and orchestration, integrating various connectivity options. This eliminates data centre backhaul latency and results in an enhanced user experience.

GTT Diverse Service Portfolio and Strategic Partnerships

GTT offers a broad range of diverse access options and partnerships with leaders in the networking space such as Aruba, VMWare (Velocloud) and Fortinet. This diversity ensures flexibility when it comes to choosing the right technology to suit specific network requirements.

GTT Customer Experience and Recognition

Having been recognised for delivering exceptional customer experiences with its Managed SD-WAN, evidenced by receiving the 2023 Customer Experience Innovation Award (presented by TMC’s CUSTOMER Magazine). One of their customers, Hansgrohe Group which is a global manufacturer of kitchens with over 40 global sites, reported that GTT’s Managed SD-WAN provided them with 100% network availability.

GTT User Feedback

Whilst GTT’s managed SD-WAN service is noticed for its high quality and availability, some users have reported issues with technical support and account management, indicating areas where GTT could potentially improve service delivery.

Colt SD WaaS

Colt Flexible and Cost-Effective Connectivity

Colt SD-WAN is delivered via a Zero-touch NFV-based service, which integrates WaaS with low-cost hardware to deliver their Cloud based service. The Colt approach is to fully-automate SD-WAN to deliver for real-time configuration of devices through their customer portal. These specific WaaS features are combined with the ability to manage and optimise traffic over multiple infrastructure links resulting in cost efficiencies.

Colt Enhanced Network Reliability and Management

Colt utilise advanced network management tools and protocols to provide real-time monitoring and analytics, which enables network administrators to identify and resolve potential issues. Colt Waas features include automated fault detection, performance analytics, and predictive maintenance.

Colt's solution provides control over network traffic to allows for more efficient data routing and bandwidth management. Colt's SD-WAN application control is beneficial for enterprises with multiple branches as critical applications and the management of network resources are provisioned with multiple circuit resiliency.

Colt's implementation of SASE Cybersecurity provides a focus on integrating network security directly into their SD-WAN offerings. The integration includes secure web gateways, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems that are deployed at the network edge. 

Colt Improved Network Visibility and User Experience Control

The Colt customer self-service portal offers good network management capabilities via comprehensive traffic data reporting and visibility, which allows users to effectively control and optimise their network. The portal supports on-demand, real-time orchestration and modification of network services, including the mapping of applications to specific WAN uplinks and the dynamic allocation of applications between primary and secondary paths.

Colt Diverse Service Portfolio and Strategic Partnerships

Colt offers multi-cloud solutions using the Colt IQ Network for high-performance, secure cloud connectivity directly into Cloud Service Providers (CSPs). The multi-cloud services are provided with their Versa Networks partnership to fully integrate service offerings.

Colt Customer Experience and Recognition

Colt has been recognised as a strong performer in the Forester Wave report for across their SD-WAN service portfolio. In terms of WaaS, Colt managed SD-WAN is highly regarded in the European market because of their on-net access, low cost Internet connectivity and managed services. One point of note is their European Net Promoter Score of 70+, which underlines Colt’s commitment to superior customer experience.

Colt User Feedback

User feedback suggests Colt is a suitable choice for multinational corporations in Europe and Asia due to their strong coverage and network presence. However, one point of note is that Colt's services may be limited outside these regions. Despite these limitations, Colt's SD-WAN security features and the possibility of integrating SASE through third-party providers present a balanced view from users.

The Role of Benchmarking in the UK WAN-as-a-Service Selection

When it comes to benchmarking WANaaS providers versus traditional WAN service providers, organisations need to assess the suitability and capabilities of each. SD-WAN services, which are available in various deployment methods such as fully managed, co-managed and do-it-yourself (DIY) require careful selection from multiple vendors which each offer unique strengths and/or weaknesses.

Key differences include SD-WAN’s software overlay for connection provisioning and centralised control. This leads to greater agility and ease in making real-time changes, something that is vital in modern day network architecture. SD-WAN offers significant cost savings, flexibility and scalability by using available broadband and enabling quicker bandwidth adjustments to specific business needs and applications.

When it comes to using the public internet for network transport, a sense of unpredictability is introduced. Reliability and performance can be impacted as it is out of your direct control. Despite these issues, SD-WAN’s support for direct cloud connectivity and SaaS integration provides key advantages over traditional WANs and at a lower cost.

Future Outlook and Emerging Trends in UK WAN Services

The future is looking bright for the UK WAN market with more and more businesses requiring wide spread network solutions. The emerging trends are shaped by various developments and influenced by organisational needs and advancements. Unsurprisingly, there’s a growing preference for SD-WAN solutions which are known for their increased reliability, ease of management and security. All of this whilst being the most cost-effective solution which has led to a surge in demand for managed SD-WAN-as-a-Service. This shift has led to Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) providers to increasingly optimise their SD-WAN offerings. There is also an increased trend in the integration of SD-WAN with Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) for enhanced remote access security.

Artificial intelligence technology is another increasing trend. Integrating AI into SD-WAN solutions has many benefits such as; improved traffic path selections, policy definitions, troubleshooting assistance and overall monitoring. Trends can be spotted before they become an issue.

There’s also a growing trend of integrating wireless WAN (WWAN) with SD-WAN, particular when it comes to enhancing last-mile connectivity thanks to the advancements of 4G and 5G.

Managed SD-WAN deployments have seen a rapid increase in growth, with network service providers offering a range of solutions. This indicates a shift towards anything-as-a-service subscription based purchasing models. Over the past 5 years there has been a big strive for businesses to improve their Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) and this is no different within the network industry.

In conclusion, the UK WAN-as-a-Service market is characterised by its suppliers who are driving innovation with their cost effective network solutions. These providers such as BT Business, Masergy, GTT and Colt offer diverse services which can be tailored to meet the differing requirements of organisations. Pricing tends to favour the adoption of WANaaS, particularly in the context of scalable and adaptable network solutions.

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