We examine how SD-WAN solutions can help boost partners’ revenues and why the channel should develop expertise in this area.
Virtualisation technologies have been transforming data centres over the last couple of years. Networks, being an integral component of an organisation’s internal infrastructures, have witnessed a dramatic increase in workloads as digitalisation becomes a priority for customers.
Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology has come to enterprises’ rescue as they seek solutions to enhance network management and ensure better efficiencies.
An IDC forecast estimates that worldwide SD-WAN infrastructure and services revenues will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 69.6 percent and reach $8.05 billion in 2021. According to the research firm, the biggest growth driver for this technology over the next five years will be digital transformation. This is because digital transformation is expected to increase network workloads and “elevates the network’s end-to-end importance to business operations”, according to IDC.
Besides digital transformation, the continued rise of public cloud-based software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications is another driver for SD-WAN’s growth.
A survey conducted by Riverbed revealed that the loss of critical services; user, network and application vulnerabilities; as well as increased and costly IT complexity were currently the top three challenges that Middle East organisations face with their WANs.
Elie Dib, regional vice president, METNA, Riverbed, says, “SD-WAN addresses these issues by providing an intelligent and intuitive approach to designing, deploying and managing distributed networks for today’s hybrid enterprise.”
The survey respondents believed the top benefits of the technology to be increased application and network visibility and security (56%); and reduction in complexity of network configuration and increased utilisation of resources (50%).
Agreeing, Pouya Parsafar, CEO, Enterprise Systems, says, “Other factors that have been driving SD-WAN interest includes meeting IT demands on a global scale, performance, cost reduction and agility in deployments. Additionally, customers rely on the technology to ease the networking challenges that IT teams face today and to also gain better network security and service level improvements.”
He explains that partners can maximise their opportunities in this technology by performing traffic engineering with an end-to-end view of network and showing how to better utilise network resources with easily scalable network functionality, supporting dynamic movement, replication and allocation of virtual resources, and therefore ease the administrative burden of configuration and provisioning.
However, to maximise these opportunities, channel organisations must play to their strengths, says Dib. “SD-WAN competency requires a keen understanding of application-defined networking concepts. Partners that have already been dealing with optimisation solutions have an advantage here as their understanding of application performance concepts across the WAN and Internet will be deeper.”
Cloud resellers and integrators especially have an advantage in this area, he adds.
“This is because they are able to offer a unique selling point as SD-WAN’s main functionality is to leverage low cost links for public or private cloud access. Partners that are experienced in cloud implementation can enhance their value proposition by also positioning SD-WAN to their customers.”
Dib urges those channel organisations without these skill sets to not be discouraged.
“Ultimately, even channel partners that have know-how in legacy routing techniques and concepts will also be able to achieve success with SD-WAN as they will be capable of re-architecting their customers’ existing LAN/WAN to software-defined architectures,’ he says.
Not only is understanding the technology a challenge but partners also find it difficult when selecting the right SD-WAN provider.
According to Pouya, partners should look at criteria such as if the vendor offers fully-managed devices, is cost-effective with flexibility, possesses a good service level agreement and provides managed tiered services.
Dib adds that SD-WAN is still an emerging technology with different vendors providing different capabilities and purchase options.
“Partners should be clear that capabilities and claims are genuine and that offerings are available to suit their go-to-market strategy,” he says. “For example, capabilities such as embedded network optimisation can be the difference between success and failure. Being able to deliver SD-WAN ‘as-a-service’ can also be a preferred option for many customers and many SD-WAN vendors don’t offer this capability.”
Partners need to invest time and resources in researching the vendors they desire to partner with. They need to be also asking crucial questions around long-term support for the technology, especially if it is offered as-a-service; and if the provider’s business objectives match theirs.
With digital transformation becoming boardroom priority, we can expect to see the SD-WAN market growing even further.
Pouya says, “Over the next few years, we will see enterprises deploying third platform technologies, including cloud, big data and analytics, mobility, and social business, to unlock new bases of innovation and ingenuity that enhance customer experiences and improve financial performance. This will further accelerate the growth of SD-WAN.”
Those partners who truly understand the potential of SD-WAN when it comes to their customers’ businesses, will be able to reap the benefits of the market opportunities.