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Verizon, Masergy, Aryaka, Nitel Share Key SD-WAN Sales Tips

WAN Diagram

Craig GalbraithPLANETONE TECH TOUR — Research shows that within three years, 30 percent of enterprises will have adopted software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) in some capacity. So there’s no better opportunity than now for the channel community to get on board.

That was the message that experts in networking from some industry heavyweights relayed to an audience of roughly 100 partners this week at PlanetOne Communications’ Tech Tour stop in Newport Beach, California. Participating in a panel on SD-WAN were Chris MacFarland, CEO, Masergy; Jim Hilbert, chief revenue officer, Aryaka; Ron Grason, co-founder and chief operations officer, Nitel; and Janet Schijns, vice president, Solution and Sales Channels, Verizon Business Markets.

PlanetOne's "all-star SD-WAN panel" included (left to right): Aryaka's Jim Hilbert, Verizon's Janet Schijns, Masergy's Chris MacFarland and Nitel's Ron Grason.Benefits of SDN, or SD-WAN – often used interchangeably – are numerous: improved application performance; greater flexibility and efficiency; ease of provisioning and network management; and detailed analytics, just to name a few. Increasingly, increased security is being recognized as one of the technology’s most important assets. It’s a big reason that Nitel, the managed telecom service provider, was deliberate in selecting Versa as its vendor. Nitel plans to launch its SD-WAN offering next month.

“For us, it was about a single platform — one that included security, routing and optimization,” Nitel’s Grason told Channel Partners in an interview ahead of the panel discussion.

It’s easy to compare SD-WAN to the cloud onslaught from a few years ago. Some partners were quick to jump on board, and many who got in early or started a “born in the cloud” practice have been very successful. In 2017, SD-WAN is hitting the channel in the jaw like a right cross.

“We’ve slow-rolled into a lot of other technologies, but this one hit us hard and fast. It’s hard to make sense of all this,” noted Jonathan Hartman, PlanetOne VP of sales. If this is overwhelming to us, our customers are experiencing this and more.”{ad}

And it’s not just the new technology that can seem overwhelming. New vendors are showing up all the time — all with varying definitions of the technology and what they have to offer.

“There was a lot of marketing fog around cloud,” said Verizon’s Schijns. “All these words you’re hearing (SDN, SD-WAN) — it’s the same thing. There are a million people coming into the market. There is a massive consolidation happening in the marketplace, so we better all be careful about who we partner with.”

That’s also a reason that proofs of concept play an increasingly important role in selecting vendors.

There’s concern in the channel community about what SD-WAN, which can run over the internet or MPLS, will mean for the future of the latter, older technology. Might it be headed down the same road as …

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… frame relay? Perhaps, but in the short run, MPLS seems to have its place with some customer groups.

“What we see now is with the big enterprises, we’re replacing [several] hundred MPLS sites globally,” said Aryaka’s Hilbert. “If you have an organization that’s very cloud-focused … we’re seeing traction for replacing MPLS. There are still great use cases of MPLS, but we’re going to see this SD-WAN really evolve.”

Masergy’s MacFarland says his company is seeing SD-WAN as an MPLS killer particularly among businesses with three or four offices that connect to the network. But in terms of talking to customers, it’ll be those partners who preach positive business outcomes of SD-WAN – no matter the underlying technology – that will win.

“The ability for us to adapt at a relatively rapid pace will be critical,” MacFarland said. “The ability to drive incremental automation and intelligence — these things are going to continue to accelerate. It’s hard now to figure out who [are] going to be winners and losers, but thought leaders with platforms that are agile [will be in the best position.]”{ad}

Grason agreed.

“SD-WAN improves performance around the WAN; therefore, applications run better and ultimately employees are more productive. Partners who focus on business outcomes will be the ones who succeed.”

Scott Van Essen, president of OnDemand, a Southern California-based boutique agency that supports MSPs and VARs, considers his business to be ahead of many of its peers on the SD-WAN curve — in part because he already knows how to have that customer conversation.

“[Success] depends on how you’re wired as a salesperson. If you tend to lean into technical conversations, it becomes dangerous very quick,” Van Essen told Channel Partners. “Focusing on the applications is key. Our [industry’s] heritage is very much ‘speeds and feeds,’ but really needs to be more business-app driven.”

Schijns summarized her thoughts on selling SD-WAN with three things “that are going to matter.”

“Partners good at marketing will succeed,” she said. “Also, [understanding] how artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things will blend in the network very quickly. And finally, there’s an opportunity to make a ton of money.”

Music to any partner’s ears.

“After all, this isn’t a not-for-profit business,” she added.

Follow executive editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.


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