Is the Channel Ready for SD-WAN?
SD-WAN is generating a lot of noise at the moment, and it’s no wonder when IDC predicts the SD-WAN market will enjoy a compound annual growth rate of 40% until 2022. The reasons for its growing popularity aren’t that hard to discern. From a technological point of view, it promises to simplify operations while allowing central management, rapid new site configuration and quicker application roll out. It enables organisations to improve performance and reduce OPEX costs while making full use of their bandwidth.
Additionally, SD-WAN also provides a much clearer view of the security status of the whole network, with deep visibility into applications, users and threats, while allowing direct internet access for SaaS or cloud-based applications. Intelligent application control means multiple circuits (and circuit types) can be utilised simultaneously, as well as providing the most appropriate path for the application types.
From a business point of view, SD-WAN is proving attractive to companies because it frees them from the prospect of being locked into lengthy contracts with providers. In turn, this is likely to make the market more competitive and help to raise standards across the board.
The technology is also popular with carriers because it makes it easier for them to offer multiple supply chains. No wonder a number of tier one carriers have launched their own offering in this area, given that they control the physical services that underpin the SD-WAN infrastructure.
SD-WAN is not a straight swap for MPLS
There is a temptation to view SD-WAN as a replacement for MPLS. It isn’t. The best way to view it is as a technology that sits alongside MPLS and supports it. In tandem with MPLS, SD-WAN gives customers increased control over application-level routing.
In any case, users are likely to be reluctant to ditch MPLS because it guarantees security pathways from point to point. If they implemented SD-WAN over standard internet in its place, packages could be routed to suit the providers rather than in the most secure or appropriate way for the user.
If businesses choose to overlay SD-WAN with MPLS they can mix internet access and MPLS connections to drive cost and performance benefits. They also have the freedom to switch to a new provider, or providers, without being locked in – and benefit from additional services in the process. This approach enables organisations to look beyond just a single provider to get the most appropriate and cost-effect solution for them.
Is the channel ready for SD-WAN?
Despite the noise around SD-WAN, it’s fair to say that awareness of SD-WAN in the channel is not as high as it could be at the moment. But there is no doubt that customers are interested in evaluating the technology, either as they come to the point of a WAN refresh or as they increasingly move to cloud-based applications. The ability to run SD-WAN alongside MPLS is an attractive option for those interested in adopting the technology.
That should also offer a mechanism for partners to promote a hybrid WAN model that enables customers to implement SD-WAN in their existing environments. The benefits are clear but the concern is whether most partners are capable of articulating them to customers. There is a suspicion that much more education work may need to occur if partners are going to be capable of engaging with their customers’ growing interest in the SD-WAN proposition.
But as with any new technology, partners are often the best conduit to and from customers when it comes to ascertaining how a solution can be implemented within the existing environment in the most effective and least disruptive manner. As a consequence, vendors are likely to ramp up their efforts to educate and empower partners to promote, market and implement their SD-WAN technology for customers. That should represent significant opportunity for channel partners in 2019 and beyond.
What happens next?
There’s no doubt this will be an interesting year for SD-WAN. Its continued impressive growth will mean greater volatility for larger carriers as customers gain the freedom to change elements of their network seamlessly. Customers will be empowered to chop and change suppliers on an individual circuit or site level if the service being provided is not up to standard. This will force suppliers to keep standards high and break up the dominance of leading providers, paving the way for mid-market suppliers to make their mark. The noise around SD-WAN is not going to abate anytime soon.
Industry: Unified Communication news
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