Survey Results: Top 5 Reasons Why Service Providers are Deploying uCPE

By Enea

Enterprise networking applications, including SD-WAN, firewalls and even SASE, are increasingly being deployed on universal customer premises equipment (uCPE). Indeed, according to analyst firm Omdia, uCPE will experience an annual growth rate of 106% between now and 2025, mainly attributed to SD-WAN deployments (uCPE Tracker – 2H21 Half-Year Forecast Update Report).

Service Provider Drivers for uCPE

At Enea, we wanted to better understand the drivers for SD-WAN and other services on uCPE and validate what service providers, system integrators, and enterprises consider to be the main benefits.

So, we partnered with Heavy Reading to conduct a global survey that would reveal the drivers and barriers for replacing fixed-function appliances with uCPE. Respondents represented service providers and systems integrators of all sizes, from small, highly niched operations to tier 1 carriers, located in the Americas, EMEA, and APAC.

Our first finding from the survey is that the drivers for uCPE heavily outweigh the barriers. A huge 93% of respondents gave higher importance to the drivers, with driving factors receiving 47% more votes on average.

This confirms that even though a technology shift (such as moving from fixed-function appliances to software-defined functions on a uCPE) always implies some challenges, the benefits in this case by far exceed the drawbacks.

But what are the benefits? The survey revealed the following top 5 drivers for uCPE.

1 - Lower Operational Costs

Doughnut diagram showing that 84% thinks lower operational expense is a driver for uCPEThe number one driver for uCPE is the capacity to lower operational costs. By automating and consolidating networking applications and services at the customer premises, uCPE saves service providers and their enterprise clients considerable time and resources. This includes for example using a single platform for multiple functions and the need for fewer or no customer site visits for installations and troubleshooting. The cost savings can be substantial over the lifetime of a managed service client.

2 –  Reducing Vendor Lock-in

Doughnut diagram showing that 80% thinks vendor lock-in is a driver for uCPEAvoiding vendor lock-in was the second most important reason for using an open uCPE architecture. It is not only a great advantage to be able to replace a component with one from another vendor, but also to be able to extend or evolve a solution with completely new services. For example migrating from an SD-WAN solution with a local firewall to a SASE solution, or adding edge services like video analytics, IoT solutions or private 5G.

3 – Simplified Logistics

Doughnut diagram showing that 79% thinks simplified logistics is a driver for uCPEWhich brings us to the third most important driver - simplified logistics. Keeping inventory of many different fixed-function appliances and then having to ship them around the globe is not as compelling as being able to source hardware locally and minimize the number of SKU’s (stock keeping units). But logistics doesn’t stop at the initial deployment. Service providers must constantly upgrade their installed customer base and change configurations, and this is easier with software-defined functions.

4 – Easier Management

Doughnut diagram showing that 77% thinks easier management is a driver for uCPEEasier management came in as the number four benefit. If you look at it one way, easier management reduces operational costs, which is the number one driver for uCPE. But there is another side to it as well. When management is easy, tasks are completed more quickly and less mistakes are made, freeing service providers for other customer demands. It then becomes possible to manage more customers while at the same time increasing their satisfaction. And remember, customer satisfaction is typically what makes a client continue to buy a managed service from a service provider!

5 – Leveraging Multi-vendor Solutions

Doughnut diagram showing that 74% thinks leveraging multi-vendor solutions is a driver for uCPEAnother important driver was the ability to mix and match functions from different vendors in an easy way, for example an SD-WAN application from one vendor and a firewall from another. Service providers know that enterprise networking is a customized business, and that their clients will not settle for any arbitrary SD-WAN or security solution that happens to be offered to them. Every client has specific requirements for vendors and configurations. With uCPE, service providers can offer a wide selection of functions from different vendors on a single platform and thereby address a bigger share of the market without complicating logistics or platform development and maintenance.

Achieving Pole Position with uCPE

The survey results have shown that while service providers and system integrators are aware of the potential challenges involved in replacing fixed function appliances with service delivery based on uCPE, they are strongly outweighed by the long-term operational and cost gains. uCPE allows them not only to generate new business, but also puts them in pole position to expand existing services and margins with their customer base, keeping competition out and securing revenues.

But to take advantage of these benefits, the uCPE must come with a purpose-built virtualization layer - running SD-WAN bare metal, for example, will make little difference compared to a hardware appliance. And a virtualization layer that is not designed ground-up for uCPE risks being too complex to manage effectively and too resource heavy to run over a full network of uCPE devices (even including the smaller, more cost-effective uCPE built for larger deployments). It is also imperative that the virtualization is open and independent of any hardware or applications, otherwise it will not fully leverage multi-vendor solutions or reduce vendor lock-in.

Which leads us to Enea Edge. It is a purpose-built uCPE virtualization and management platform with high performance and low resource footprint. It is the only truly independent uCPE software platform.

So, if you’re considering uCPE, contact Enea. We’ll help you move to pole position.

The full report is available here.