Top Challenge for Managed SD-WAN Providers is SASE!

By Rosemary Cochran, Principal & Co-Founder, Vertical Systems Group
June 9, 2022

SASE is the top business challenge for providers of Carrier Managed SD-WAN Services. The next three significant challenges are security integration for multiple SD-WAN platforms, volatility in the workplace and retention of an experienced workforce.

Research for this analysis is based on verbatim responses from Vertical Systems Group’s Carrier Managed SD-WAN Service Provider survey, which was distributed worldwide in January 2022. Selected comments are included below for the question, What are the top challenges for your Managed SD-WAN Business in 2022? Comments have been edited to eliminate identifying information.


Hype over SASE – the concept of Somehow Administer Security Everywhere! – is difficult to avoid. The magic SASE (secure access service edge) notion that was introduced in 2019 is broadly applied to market a range of services and products. A related concept called SSE (security service edge) has more recently added to the muddle. Currently there are no industry accepted definitions for SASE or SSE. However, MEF is working on a standard aimed at defining SASE services and attributes (MEF W117).

Managed SD-WAN service providers described a number of challenges related to SASE. These include strains on SD-WAN technical developments, more complex positioning of SASE within SD-WAN service portfolios, and lengthier purchase decisions as customers endeavor to compare SD-WAN and security solutions. 

  • “We offer multiple variants of SASE integrated with our current SD-WAN solution.”
  • “The first SD-WAN challenge is to align technology providers on common terminology so that we and our customers can compare solutions in a rigorous and objective way.”
  • “Our SD-WAN solution relies on premise and cloud-based integration to provide the optimal SASE experience.”
  • One of our top challenges for 2022 is addressing the convergence of our networking and security capabilities into a cloud-native, distributed architecture.” 

Security Integration Across Multiple SD-WAN Platforms

Integrating security for multiple SD-WAN platforms is another major challenge, both technically and operationally. Many market leading Managed SD-WAN providers offer two or more different platforms in order to address the needs of their customers. Security features may include capabilities internally developed, sourced from technology firms, or obtained through company acquisitions.

  • “Moving from managing network and security services that have been traditionally independent of each other to an integrated SASE solution doesn’t happen overnight.”
  • “We will deliver end-to-end SASE services, leveraging our extended ecosystem of technological partners with whom we are advancing side-by-side.”
  • “We offer customers a pathway to adopt component pieces as needed, starting with additional security layered onto their SD-WAN that will ultimately lead to a SASE compliant result.”

Volatility: Workplace Shifts, Deployments, Supply Chain

Repercussions from workplace shifts forced by the global pandemic are expected to continue. Business establishments are evaluating if and when employees will return to traditional offices, particularly those with expiring leases. Site closures force volatility such as network service disconnects and delayed orders for new service deployments. Service providers also anticipate that supply chain disruptions will extend throughout the year.

  • “Customers continue to be challenged with adapting their corporate network to support both on-premises and remote workers with secure connectivity to business-critical applications.”
  • “We anticipate customer demand for self-service capabilities that scale in real-time as networks continue to adapt and evolve to support changing work environments and remote users.”
  • “Our ability to deliver SD-WAN growth this year could be impacted by the ongoing chipset crisis.” 

Retaining Experienced Sales and Technical Talent

Delivering the optimal solution for each customer’s needs and growth objectives requires experienced sales skills and expert-level technical support teams. Service providers cite hiring, training, and retaining skilled technical talent as a priority.

  • “Our big challenges are educating customers on the benefits of one solution over others – and explaining that certain architectures are more supportive and agile for their business needs, including security integration.“
  • The top challenge for 2022 is managing customer digital transformations – setting expectations around adapting to SD-WAN technology, while understanding their network security requirements.”
  • “The promise of low touch SD-WAN service provisioning has not been met. Customization and consultative skills are required for a successful turn-up ensuring a satisfied customer.”

Outlook for Carrier Managed SD-WAN Services

Despite these challenges, our latest projections show a steady increase in enterprise customer migration from legacy services to carrier managed SD-WAN networks. New levels of customized solutions will evolve from the integration of SD-WAN overlay orchestration plus dynamic underlay connectivity plus a security mixture that may span cloud-based, service edge, premises, etc.

Expect SASE confusion to persist. As a result, purchase decisions will remain complex, particularly for customers with expansive networks requiring advanced or specialized security. Overall, the key competitive differentiators for SD-WAN service providers are exceptional customer experience and top-quality support.

Source: Excerpted from analysis available exclusively with an @SD-WAN ENS Research Program subscription. Contact us for more information and pricing.

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