Wayne Mason, Sales Director of Advanced Networking at Nuvias, explains how SD-WAN delivered as a managed service is opening up the benefits of this fast-growing network technology to SMEs and looks at the role of the channel in this migration.
SD-WAN has had its fair share of hype over the past decade, but it is now established as a powerful solution, replacing costly MPLS networks for connecting large enterprises such as branch offices and data centres over wide geographical areas. By harnessing all types of connectivity, from fixed broadband, Wi-Fi and 4G/5G to traditional leased lines, to adjust dynamically to traffic demands, SD-WAN not only saves money but provides a flexible, agile and scalable alternative.
SD-WAN is not going to remain confined to large enterprises, as SMEs recognise its benefits, while vendors and the channel realise the growth opportunities.
Like many technologies that start life in large enterprises, IT managers in SMEs look at SD-WAN enterprise deployments with envy but are wary of early adoption due to potential cost, complexity and lack of in-house skills and resources. This is particularly true when it comes to the network infrastructure, which underpins every business or organisation.
But the steady ‘as-a-service’ revolution is changing this. Many SD-WAN vendors such as Versa, who offered on-premise solutions, have been migrating to SME-friendly as-a-service offerings, designed to be quick to roll out, flexible and simple to maintain, giving IT managers control of their infrastructure management as well as a scalability, so the network infrastructure can grow with the business.
Atchison Frazer, WW Head of Marketing at Versa Networks, commented: “The intersection of cloud, SD-WAN and SD-Security among high growth solution providers, gives great context to the need for a cloud-managed SD-WAN branch and security service designed for market-maker VARs, managed service providers and mid-market end-client enterprises. The entire legacy architecture of what solution providers have to implement in the branch today needs to evolve to a simpler methodology. A cloud-managed approach automates the tools and abilities channel partners need to simplify the SMB network, scale WAN deployments and ease customer operations, and do so at a much lower TCO and faster time to market.”
By using software orchestration, which automates key network processes to help streamline and simplify delivery and operations management, service providers can make SD-WAN appeal to smaller organisations who don’t want, or don’t have the resources to manage the network themselves and prefer to outsource.
Managed from the cloud, SD-WAN as-a-service simplifies both deployment and management and provides access to a wide range of other networking optimisation and security services, essentially providing a tailored ‘a-la-carte’ managed solution.
A managed service can also be funded on a monthly consumption basis, reducing significantly the up-front investment barriers to entry faced by smaller organisations. It also means that the return on investment (ROI) is easier to measure and manage.
The role of the channel
Because the SME market is essentially a high-volume, lower-value business, the channel has a vital role to play in reaching out to the mid-market and accelerating the roll out of SD-WAN as-a-service. But moving to an MSP (Managed Service Provider) model for many traditional resellers is a significant challenge, requiring new knowledge, skills, support and resources.
This is where distribution can help bridge the gap between the vendor and the reseller or MSP. Education is at the heart of this migration and it is critical that would-be MSPs get the level of support needed across every aspect of the business and technology journey. The channel must get up to speed, to be able to become the trusted-partner of choice for their customers and offer guidance and advice on how to deploy and manage an SD-WAN service, integrate it with legacy systems and help define new business and funding models.
Distributors can also help their partners navigate the SD-WAN selection minefield. Like any hyped market, new and established players are quick to jump onto the bandwagon and claim to offer the SD-WAN panacea. But not all SD-WANs – and in particular as-a-service SD-WANs – are equal and a good distributor will have done the technical leg work and due diligence to offer the best solutions for partners and their customers. If SD-WAN is to work for SMEs, it needs to be cost-effective, easy to deploy and manage, flexible and of course, reliable.
Not forgetting security
No IT manager can afford to compromise on network security, so any SD-WAN deployment must have a strong security posture. Most modern SD-WAN solutions are equipped with firewalls and data encryption capabilities, for example, secured at each remote location and connectivity to centralised data centres; enabling SMEs to have the same level of enterprise-grade security as a much larger organisation. But this does mean that MSPs may also have to add the additional S to become MSSPs – Managed Security Service Providers.
Keeping it simple
Managed services’ technology is progressing, enabling dashboards to provide an instant snapshot of the network’s status, while services can often be configured and managed via an app – something pretty much unheard of a year ago. This means that for an SME, the process of adopting, deploying and configuring an SD-WAN service can be rapid and simple.
While more organisations and businesses are moving to SD-WANs, the market is still at an early stage. The retail industry has been an early adopter, in its effort to minimise downtime and reduce expenditure linked to expensive MPLS lines to link up stores, offices and warehouses. While this has been a key driver for SD-WAN technology, the benefits go much further than that.
With the as-as-service option making this technology accessible, interest in SD-WAN is broadening, including a wide range of industries and public sector organisations. Nuvias’ intelligence across the EMEA region shows that more than 60% of those showing an interest in SD-WAN, are SMEs, including traditionally low-resource establishments like primary schools.
SD-WAN services are undoubtedly evolving quickly, and analyst firm IDC predicts that the SD-WAN infrastructure market will see a 30.8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2018 to 2023 to reach $5.25 billion1. It is clear that SD-WAN is no longer just for big business and that its growth will be fuelled by growing demand from SMEs keen to feel the benefits.