Channel, Features, Insight, Opinion

Will the Growing Emergence of SD-WAN Increase Opportunity in the Channel?

By: Simon Pamplin, Chief Technologist WAN Edge EMEA at Aruba Silver Peak, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

Over the past year the pandemic has been a catalyst for accelerated digital transformation and companies are now working hard to adapt and maintain the pace they set themselves. Alongside a myriad of other challenges, the new ‘work from anywhere’ mandate has been a prevailing shift that businesses have had to embrace. Remote working is the new norm, and the net has widened in terms of business locations; instead of being fixed, viable ‘office’ settings could now be coffee shops, homes, shared spaces, and pop-up venues. This has altered the concept of a branch office; while the apps used are the same, the way they are accessed and secured is different, which is putting increased pressure on organisations to transform their WAN and security architectures.

Many organisations have tried to manage this shift by stretching their legacy router and firewall centric infrastructures that simply can’t sustain the pace and aren’t flexible enough for modern applications that are primarily hosted in the cloud. As a result, there is a growing demand for SD-WAN, which relies on a cloud-first architecture. But how can channel partners maximise SD-WAN as a growth opportunity? And what should they look out for when it comes to identifying potential customers?

A new conversation

One of the key benefits of SD-WAN is that it aligns the network to the desired outcomes of the business. The network is built around the needs of the business and the software creates an agile virtual network enabling acceleration and innovation that can’t be matched by traditional networks. With SD-WAN automation and intelligence, the network becomes self-driving, simplifying processes and driving efficiencies that ensure business leaders can get on with running their companies instead of worrying about the accessibility and security of their business applications.

This shift in approach presents a huge opportunity for channel partners – particularly those who have sold traditional networking. Instead of talking to IT departments about new network ‘products’, resellers can now speak to business leaders about WAN and security transformation that will enable them to deliver on broader company goals and objectives, and gain time to market advantages. This means partners can target a new audience with a fundamentally new approach to unifying network and security architectures, instead focusing on addressing strategic business challenges for customers rather than simply reselling networking gear.

An entry to cloud

Businesses across every sector are considering some form of digital transformation, but this is often accompanied by concerns around complexity and disruption. SD-WAN eradicates those concerns – with the Aruba EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform, for example, it’s now possible to extend the network into AWS, Azure, Google or Oracle with a few mouse clicks, meaning businesses don’t need to worry about embracing a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy. This level of simplicity makes SD-WAN an attractive proposition for businesses considering cloud migration and gives partners another opportunity to have a strategic business discussion with customers.

Furthermore, as partners continue supporting customers in their adoption and evolution of WAN and security transformation, they will have the ability to establish profitable SD-WAN business practices that will fuel their own growth and profitability in a sustainable way. To ensure resellers succeed throughout their SD-Wan journey they should partner with a trusted provider that offers ongoing training and certification.

SD-WAN-ready businesses

Of course, cloud transformation is a broad brush to target companies with but there are ways to narrow the focus. Businesses most ripe for SD-WAN will be those struggling to sustain high quality of experience for end users or those with latency issues. Partners should listen for customers who are currently unable to deliver consistent application performance, or who are complaining about application availability, which has an inevitable impact on productivity and trade. These are all signals that SD-WAN would provide a viable solution.

It’s also a good time for partners to re-engage with businesses that put major projects on hold due to COVID. Though many initiatives were accelerated during the pandemic, enabling SD-WAN to deliver almost instant agility and speed to help businesses sustain and improve operations, a large number were postponed or cancelled entirely. In those cases, companies now find themselves trailing behind their digitally savvy peers and losing competitive advantage. Partners should encourage conversations with customers to identify the need for increased efficiency, particularly for those still holding back on transformation projects.

Furthermore, as businesses continue their shift to the cloud, many are struggling with how to segment and secure cloud-destined application traffic. SD-WAN presents an opportunity to discuss both WAN and security transformation and how to help businesses to deliver edge to cloud network security. Addressing this issue also has significant business ramifications.

Final word

The good thing about SD-WAN is that it’s sector agnostic, so resellers have a vast target market and addressable market to serve. SD-WAN is driven by business needs and will benefit any geographically distributed business, which casts the net wide in a post-pandemic world. As organisations continue their journey down the road of digital transformation, the need for agility and speed at the Edge will only accelerate. With SD-WAN ripe for picking, partners should be able to maximise market opportunity and ensure their customers can achieve business goals in a digital-first world.

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