Published On: Fri, Oct 7th, 2016

Common Language, Common Starting Point, Defining SD-WAN & Enterprise vCPE

As I head to the SDN World Congress this weekend, I have been researching and thinking about two technologies that although similar continue to talk past each other like ships in the night. The two technologies are SD-WAN and Enterprise vCPE. Although the two technologies remain mostly independent today, we at ACG see the two converging into a flexible, software-driven business services deployment model that leverage the best attributes of each. In our discussions with service providers and vendors, we have seen confusion caused by the lack of a common language or taxonomy. For this reason, ACG analysts have developed written definitions that we have begun using before diving into deeper discussions.

SD-WAN: Software-defined WAN is the deployment of virtualized enterprise services as an overlay to the underlying physical network. Industry leading SD-WAN solutions are highly automated and operate independent of the underlying physical connectivity which may be provided by MPLS, DSL, DOCSIS, Ethernet or Wireless. A centralized SD-WAN controller is used to automate provisioning and service activation and to simplify connecting the devices and branch offices of an enterprise. Since the solution is a network overlay, SD-WAN solutions may be sold to the enterprise by a network service provider, an alternative service provider or by the SD-WAN vendor themselves.

Enterprise vCPE: Like SD-WAN, Enterprise vCPE is also about virtualizing Dynamic Enterprise Services in a move toward virtualized software functions versus siloed delivery with on-premises, custom hardware per service. The main difference with SD-WAN is that Enterprise vCPE solutions are not agnostic to the underlying physical network. Enterprise vCPE solutions are sold by a network service provider as part of a broader managed service where the underlying physical connectivity is often part of the offer.

Technology, services and convergence discussions will be easier if we all agree to a common language and starting point. Do you agree?  Feel free to comment online at Tim’s Linked-In post ( or tweet (@doirontim).  Alternatively, you can share your views directly with Tim Doiron at