• Zero-touch provisioning (ZTP) enables the customer to implement WAN circuits without requiring any manual intervention
• SD-WAN products are increasingly available from global service providers and ‘automated zero-touch deployments’ will become standard features in WAN offerings during 2016-2017
• Market disruptors such as VeloCloud and Glue Networks tout zero-touch capabilities in their SD-WAN proposals
ZTP is not a brand new concept to the IT world; it is just late to the game with respect to data networks. Server provisioning moved to virtualized models, using zero-touch and automated processes, early on in the evolution of IT; and these capabilities are now extending into data networking. For the purpose of this blog, the principles of software-defined networking are the abstraction of three planes: management, control, and data, applied to a specific enterprise WAN. Virtual network functions (VNFs) are not the primary focus of this blog. In the traditional world, network administration technicians need to follow manual procedures and configure each hardware device, a process that is unrealistic for scale, time-consuming, and error-prone. The main benefits of ZTP for WAN offerings are faster provisioning and preventing unintended provisioning errors. Automation and set-piece boot configurations let the customer provision network switches with a single mouse click without having to work through complex scripting. There are additional extended benefits such as logical service chaining for virtualised devices, which is where VNFs enter the picture, where for example administrators can quickly spin up things like virtual firewalls and virtual WAN acceleration features very quickly. Being able to change CPE functions in a virtual environment rather than physically swapping out boxes and reconnecting cables is a very attractive alternative. Enterprise customers should certainly be checking in with their WAN service providers to have conversations about when and how ZTP might be available and help solve some of the more cumbersome network challenges faced in more traditional WAN solutions.