Managed WAN services cover the features and functionality carriers offer in their wide area networks (WAN) and at the customer point of demarcation. These are a collection of value-added services that can include monitoring and reporting, security, and outsourced CPE functions. Large businesses see managed network services as a way to outsource IT functions and purchase them along with consulting and professional services that assess, design, and implement their enterprise networks. At a basic level, carriers’ managed WAN services offer monitoring and alerts of critical problems such as network outages. Higher tiers of service can add configuration management; proactive troubleshooting and trouble resolution; SLA management; more sophisticated/granular monitoring and reporting; on-the-ground CPE installation and hardware support, ensuring CPE software is up-to-date and configured correctly; and overall lifecycle management.
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- Global Masters of Managed WAN…: Many smaller service providers offer managed WAN services effectively. However, when it comes to breadth, depth, and reach of services, the world’s biggest carriers field tremendous resources to help shoulder the management burden and let the largest multinational corporations focus on their core business. AT&T, Verizon Business, Orange Business Services, and BT Global Services offer such a spread of managed network services, backed by strong consulting and professional services capabilities, global networks, and a global on-the-ground presence.
- A Broad Base of Players: There are plenty of additional service providers that offer managed network services domestically and/or internationally. Other major providers include Qwest, Sprint, and Global Crossing as well as virtual network operators such as Virtela. Domestic service aggregators such as New Edge Networks and MegaPath are additional purveyors of managed WANs. CLECs including Windstream are rising stars, and Hughes Network Services is among the top players in terms of endpoints, as its satellite/terrestrial segments are managed by default.
- IP Spurs Managed WAN Adoption: Enterprises traditionally employed private line/digital data service, frame relay, and ATM to build static data communications networks consisting of point-to-point real or virtual circuits to connect locations. The world of IP/Internet traffic uses mesh networks and enables converged services on one pipe that are more dynamic and complex. While managed network services have been spurred by IP, major carriers also continue to tout off-the-shelf management options for frame relay/ATM networks and even for transport services.
- Customer Portal Automation: AT&T and Verizon are among the carriers that have initiatives dating back to the 1990s to pull together network management platforms and coordinate information. These internal projects were described as iGEMS and IMPACT, respectively, and became the information engines powering their BusinessDirect and Verizon Enterprise Center customer portals. Online portals are now commonplace among major carriers, and they are a two-way conduit for customer self-service, including submitting instructions and receiving reports on customers’ managed services.
- Business Continuity Tie-In: Managed WAN services have a natural tie-in to service providers’ business continuity/disaster recovery portfolio of services. As with managed network services, these programs mix consulting engagements and professional services programs with off-the-shelf network/hosted services and active management of customer networks. Together, these services aim to keep uptime high for the customer and provide rapid alternatives in the event of a failure such as network re-routing, hardware and configuration repair, data storage, and recovery.
- Ground Forces: Many managed WAN functions can be delivered remotely through a network operations center or customer support center. Carriers can tap a high level of automation to deliver customers’ network services. However, at some point, customers with managed CPE components will need on-the-ground support for hardware installation, break/fix, or replacement – a role that channels and VARs can play in some cases, but one that requires a distributed field force and/or a partnership with a professional field services specialist such as Endeavor Telecom or Dimension Data.
The History of WAN Management
Managed WAN services emerged in the late 1980s, starting in the U.S. with outsourced management of a few, very large enterprise frame relay networks. The practice boomed alongside widespread adoption of IP networks and IP VPNs. The IP revolution converged networks – public with private traffic, priority with best-effort delivery, and voice with data applications – making them more dynamic and complex. These trends fueled enterprise customers to off-load WAN management responsibility. In managed WAN services, Current Analysis includes network infrastructure from Layer 1 transport through Layer 3 IP; the definition also includes carrier-managed CPE deployed at the customer point of demarcation, as well as premium SLA guarantees available when customers purchase carriers’ management and network redundancy options. Besides the network services themselves, managed WAN services coverage takes into account support resources: staff on the ground to provide on-site installation, service, and support; network operations centers and related facilities; and customer portals that deliver alerts, reports, and other vital information to customers. Finally, though general-purpose consulting and professional services are not covered, managed WAN services include packaged disaster recovery/business continuity services; a primary customer driver remains higher service level guarantees and rapid recovery in the event of an outage.