AdobeStock_143487869-1

How Providers Are Approaching the Middle Mile in 2022

By Brianna BoudreauJul 25, 2022

Share

Enterprises can choose few or many providers in the middle mile (or none at all). As with other technology procurement decisions, this depends on an individual enterprise’s capability to orchestrate multiple vendors and preferences for specific vendors in the chain.

It also depends on current network infrastructure and the desire to leverage that toward a reconfigured WAN, as well as the performance and cost goals the enterprise wants to achieve.

For instance, an enterprise with several established data centers located near cloud service provider (CSP) on-ramps may find them useful for optimizing onward cloud connectivity. A data center initially procured for private storage and serving could be repurposed for optimal public CSP connectivity.

Conversely, an enterprise more beholden to few global WAN suppliers may opt for a more managed service that optimizes CSP connectivity end-to-end.

Here are the general categories of providers offering services in the middle mile. These designations help distinguish different approaches, rather than for the sake of taxonomy.

Here are the general categories of providers offering services in the middle mile. These designations help distinguish different approaches, rather than for the sake of taxonomy. Accordingly, the categorization is not comprehensive or mutually exclusive.

Network-based providers, or NaaS

  • Transport
  • Colocation & data center
    • MSPs
    • SD-WAN and SASE
  • Regional niche operators
  • Telcos

Cloud-based providers

  • CSP WAN service
  • Cloud-embedded (multi-cloud)

Let’s take a deeper dive into who these providers are and how they approach the middle mile. 

Network as a Service Providers

Network as a service (NaaS) encompasses many topologies. For our purposes, it’s a connectivity service that’s decoupled from traditional WAN services, augmented by SDN, with more management and reconfigurability than individual wholesale transport and cross connect transactions.

Enterprises that want visibility and control of their network topology, but are not inclined to source static individual connectivity components from different vendors, might opt for a NaaS provider.

A number of companies fall under the NaaS umbrella. 

Transport Providers

Transport providers link critical colocation sites with fiber and wavelengths using SDN control.

SDN and the network agility it delivers via user-friendly portals distinguish their network offerings from traditional private line service. A transport-centric service would suit an enterprise interested in dedicated links to CSPs, coupled with additional transport to other network nodes.

Transport Providers

Source: TeleGeography, © 2022 TeleGeography
 

Colocation and Internet Exchange Providers

What constitutes this category are colocation and internet exchange providers that extend their tenants’ interconnectivity toward an enterprise service.

There are three subcategories here:

  1. Colo and data center operators that set up an Ethernet cloud exchange
  2. Those that add transport between those exchanges
  3. Internet exchange providers that extend their peering fabric to enterprises

One provider could appear in multiple categories. Enterprises that already have PoPs established with colo and data center operators can easily integrate that with an exchange offering from these providers.

Colo/IX

Source: TeleGeography, © 2022 TeleGeography
 
Managed Service Providers

Under our classification, a managed service provider (MSP) network is something of a catch-all for service providers that run a private backbone and often have advanced technology integrated into their networks allowing for dynamic provisioning and on-demand services.

MSPs frequently have advanced customer portals that make real-time changes possible and deliver end-to-end performance visibility.

SD-WAN and SASE Providers

SD-WAN and SASE providers combine routing optimization with managed network infrastructure to overcome challenges in the middle mile.

These solutions are particularly suitable when remote end-user sites require access to a specific cloud/SaaS region or centralized data center running a legacy application.

Telcos

Optimizing the middle mile is more challenging for telcos because they typically don’t look at it as a separate network segment.

Optimizing the middle mile is more challenging for telcos because they typically don’t look at it as a separate network segment.

But nearly all telcos have responded to their customers’ demands, adopting SD-WAN, integrating local internet breakouts, and providing direct cloud connectivity services. They also often have greater geographic reach and greater network density in their primary markets.

For enterprises with substantial global WANs and little appetite to take on network operation in-house or even manage many vendors, allowing their telco to provide a managed middle mile may make sense. 

Cloud-based Providers

It is no secret that CSPs have been investing in network infrastructure at massive scale to interconnect their cloud data centers.

The infrastructure that was previously dedicated to internal support of customer data operations has been transformed to deliver connectivity for customers between customer cloud instances.

This analysis comes from our recently published Internet Middle Mile Market Summary. WAN Forum members can keep reading over here.

 

TeleGeography's SD-WAN Guide

Brianna Boudreau

Brianna Boudreau

Senior Research Manager Brianna Boudreau joined TeleGeography in 2008. She specializes in pricing and market analysis for wholesale and enterprise network services with a regional focus on Asia and Oceania. While at TeleGeography, Brianna has helped develop and launch several new lines of research, including our Cloud and WAN Infrastructure service and the SD-WAN Research Service.

Connect with Brianna