July 18, 2024

Carrier-Managed SDWAN Deployment vs Customer-Managed SDWAN Deployment

8 min read
Discover the differences between carrier-managed and customer-managed SDWAN deployment in this informative article.
Two networks

Two networks

Software-Defined Wide Area Networking, commonly referred to as SDWAN, has become a key strategy for today’s businesses as they seek solutions to manage their wide area networks (WAN). SDWAN offers several benefits including better network performance, increased security, and cost savings. However, implementing SDWAN deployment can be a daunting task for businesses. One of the primary considerations that businesses need to make is the choice between carrier-managed or customer-managed SDWAN deployment. In this article, we shall discuss the differences between these two solutions, their pros and cons, and factors to consider when choosing which option to adopt.

What is SDWAN and why is it important?

SDWAN is a networking technology designed to speed up the transfer of data between different locations, especially across large distances, by creating a virtual WAN infrastructure over the existing internet connections. SDWAN is important for businesses because it can eliminate network downtime, provide more secure access and connectivity to cloud-based applications, reduce costs, and enable the expansion of operations across geographical boundaries. While SDWAN delivers undeniable benefits, the question of who manages it becomes vital to firms seeking a practical, efficient network solution.

One of the key advantages of SDWAN is its ability to prioritize network traffic based on application requirements. This means that critical applications, such as video conferencing or VoIP, can be given priority over less important traffic, ensuring that they always have the necessary bandwidth to function properly. Additionally, SDWAN can dynamically route traffic over the most efficient path, whether that be over a public or private network, further improving performance and reducing costs.

Another benefit of SDWAN is its ability to provide centralized management and control of network infrastructure. This means that IT teams can easily monitor and manage network performance, security, and policies from a single location, simplifying network management and reducing the risk of errors or misconfigurations. With SDWAN, businesses can achieve greater network agility, flexibility, and scalability, enabling them to respond quickly to changing business needs and market conditions.

Defining Carrier-Managed SDWAN Deployment

Carrier-Managed SDWAN deployment is where an enterprise outsources the management of their SDWAN network to a service provider. The service provider installs and manages the underlying network infrastructure, providing end-to-end SDWAN solutions, including network devices, software, and monitoring tools offered through a Software as a Service (SaaS) model.

This type of deployment is particularly useful for enterprises that lack the necessary expertise or resources to manage their SDWAN network in-house. By outsourcing the management to a service provider, they can focus on their core business activities while still enjoying the benefits of SDWAN technology.

Another advantage of Carrier-Managed SDWAN deployment is that it allows for greater scalability and flexibility. Service providers can quickly and easily add or remove network devices as needed, without requiring any action from the enterprise. This means that enterprises can easily adapt to changing business needs and scale their network up or down as required.

Defining Customer-Managed SDWAN Deployment

Customer-Managed SDWAN deployment is where the enterprise takes control of their SDWAN network deployment and management. The organization owns, manages, and maintains the SDWAN network infrastructure, including hardware devices, software, and monitoring tools.

This type of deployment provides organizations with greater flexibility and control over their network, allowing them to customize and optimize their SDWAN to meet their specific business needs. It also enables organizations to have greater visibility into their network performance and security, as they have direct access to the network infrastructure and monitoring tools.

Pros and Cons of Carrier-Managed SDWAN Deployment


  • Reduced complexity: By having a third-party manage your SDWAN, businesses can focus on their core competencies rather than spending time on network management.
  • Cost-savings: SDWAN solutions provided by carriers can be designed to fit the specific needs of the organization, resulting in reduced costs over time especially in support and maintenance.
  • Access to better infrastructure: A carrier’s larger scale network can provide more reliable infrastructure to support the SDWAN deployment


  • Control: Enterprises give up some control of the SDWAN deployment and management when outsourcing it to carriers
  • Compliance Issues: Companies turn over sensitive information requirements in the SDWAN network schema to third parties
  • Limited customization: Businesses need to work within the service provider’s SDWAN solution, which may limit customization opportunities

New Information: Another potential disadvantage of carrier-managed SDWAN deployment is the risk of vendor lock-in. Once a business has committed to a specific carrier’s SDWAN solution, it may be difficult to switch to a different provider or to make significant changes to the network architecture. This can limit a company’s flexibility and ability to adapt to changing business needs or technological advancements.

Pros and Cons of Customer-Managed SDWAN Deployment


  • Complete Control: Organizations enjoy complete autonomy with customer-managed SDWAN deployment, making it easy to meet their specific needs.
  • Customization: Companies can tailor their SDWAN network to meet their unique application requirements, resulting in better performance and cost savings.
  • Compliance: Less regulatory compliance issues for enterprise


  • Complexity: Managing a customer-managed SDWAN deployment can be complex and require a skilled IT team which can take time to develop
  • Costs: managing and upgrading a self-owned SDWAN deployment infrastructure can be costly to the enterprise

Another important consideration when it comes to customer-managed SDWAN deployment is the level of security that can be achieved. While organizations have complete control over their network, they also bear the responsibility of ensuring that it is secure from potential threats. This can be a daunting task, especially for smaller companies with limited resources. It is important to weigh the benefits of complete control against the potential risks and costs of managing security in-house.

Factors to consider when choosing between Carrier-Managed and Customer-Managed SDWAN Deployment

When considering the SDWAN deployment, businesses should evaluate the following factors before choosing a solution:

  • Size: The size of the organization and the number of locations will determine which SDWAN deployment is most feasible
  • IT Skillset: Enterprises need to assess their in-house IT skillset to determine if they can manage the solution effectively or need outside expertise.
  • Compliance: Businesses with sensitive information or regulatory constraints will want to opt for customer-managed SDWAN deployment.
  • Hardware and Infrastructure: Consider the long-term costs of upgrading and maintaining hardware if planning a customer-managed SDWAN deployment.
  • Flexibility and Scalability: Evaluate how either option will impact the enterprise’s ability to scale up to new locations, new businesses, or new platforms.

Another important factor to consider when choosing between carrier-managed and customer-managed SDWAN deployment is the level of control and customization required. With customer-managed SDWAN, businesses have more control over the network and can customize it to meet their specific needs. However, this also means that they are responsible for managing and maintaining the network, which can be time-consuming and require additional resources. On the other hand, carrier-managed SDWAN offers less control and customization but can be more convenient and cost-effective for businesses that do not have the resources or expertise to manage their own network.

Cost comparison between Carrier-Managed and Customer-Managed SDWAN Deployment

Cost is a critical consideration as the expenses associated with these deployments can be a significant differentiator. While customer-managed SDWAN deployment may have higher upfront hardware and software, vendor-managed solutions may be more expensive over time because they usually entail ongoing service fees that customers would not have with self-service options.

Security considerations for both Carrier-Managed and Customer-Managed SDWAN Deployment

Security can also be a key differentiator between customer-managed and carrier-managed SDWAN deployment. When outsourcing your SDWAN deployment, you have less control over security and compliance, third-party access and authentication procedures.

However, carrier-managed SDWAN deployment can offer benefits in terms of security. Carriers have dedicated security teams and resources to ensure that their networks are secure and compliant with industry standards. They also have the ability to quickly respond to security threats and implement necessary updates and patches.

On the other hand, customer-managed SDWAN deployment allows for greater control over security measures. Customers can implement their own security protocols and customize them to fit their specific needs. They can also monitor their network for any potential security breaches and take immediate action to address them.

Scalability comparison between Carrier-Managed and Customer-Managed SDWAN Deployment

Scalability compares the enterprise’s ability to accommodate growth or increase capacity as needed. Carrier-managed SDWAN deployment offers scalability with high-quality service level agreements (SLAs) to accommodate growing business needs.

On the other hand, customer-managed SDWAN deployment may require additional resources and expertise to maintain and scale the network. This can result in increased costs and potential downtime during the scaling process. However, customer-managed SDWAN deployment offers greater flexibility and control over the network, allowing for customized configurations and faster implementation of changes.

Case studies of successful Carrier-Managed SDWAN Deployments

Case studies of successful implementations help provide real-world benefits of carrier-managed SDWAN deployments. Netsurion is one such provider with ubiquitous WAN coverage across the nation. They provide end-to-end SD-WAN services that leverage their proprietary platform. They manage everything from network and security to application optimization and traffic management to provide customers with the highest Quality of Service (QoS) levels possible.

Another provider of successful carrier-managed SDWAN deployments is VeloCloud, which was acquired by VMware in 2017. VeloCloud’s SDWAN solution is designed to simplify branch networking by automating deployment and improving performance. Their cloud-delivered SDWAN architecture enables customers to easily manage and optimize their WAN traffic, while also providing secure connectivity to cloud and data center applications.

In addition to Netsurion and VeloCloud, another successful provider of carrier-managed SDWAN deployments is Silver Peak. Their SDWAN solution is designed to help enterprises simplify and optimize their WAN infrastructure. Silver Peak’s SDWAN platform provides customers with a range of benefits, including improved application performance, increased network agility, and enhanced security. Their solution also includes advanced analytics and reporting capabilities, which enable customers to gain greater visibility into their network performance and make more informed decisions.

Case studies of successful Customer-Managed SDWAN Deployments

Because every organization has different needs and preferences, there is no ‘one size fits all’ of SDWAN deployments. SDWAN solution providers include Cisco┬«, Silver Peak, and VMware VeloCloud. Many ISPs also have a flexible SDWAN service portfolio from which the customer can pick and choose which features and services are the most important to them. It’s not uncommon to employ multiple providers for different aspects of your SDWAN infrastructure.

One example of a successful customer-managed SDWAN deployment is a large retail chain that was experiencing network congestion and slow application performance across their stores. They implemented an SDWAN solution from a provider that allowed them to prioritize critical applications and route traffic more efficiently. As a result, they saw a significant improvement in network performance and were able to provide a better customer experience in their stores.

Best practices for implementing a Carrier-Managed or Customer-Managed SDWAN Deployment

Any successful SDWAN implementation requires planning and execution, including proactive measures to mitigate potential risks. Enterprise must efficiently manage the deployment, including installation checks and systems verification with both vendors and network specialists. They must also keep track of changes in policies and available SDWAN services, and consider those that align with enterprise objectives to overcome challenges and ensure a smooth SDWAN deployment.

Future trends in the industry for both types of deployments

SDWAN continues to evolve and grow in the network infrastructure space in response to changes brought about by technologies such as 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML). Service providers and customers alike will continue to seek out innovative solutions to streamline their SDWAN networks, enhance performance, and reduce overall costs.

Conclusion: Which one is right for your business?

Both Customer-Managed and Carrier-Managed SDWAN deployments offer benefits and drawbacks. The choice is not an easy one and requires a thorough assessment of a business’s unique requirements. Consider factors such as budget, complexity, control, and compliance when choosing which deployment type is right for your business. We hope this article helps you make an informed choice as you embark on your SDWAN deployment journey.

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