Listen up partners: 2016 will be the year that software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN) go mainstream as companies of all sizes begin adopting and using the technology.
That’s according to David Hughes, Silver Peak’s CEO and founder, and Randy Schirman, Talari’s vice president of worldwide sales. Both are networking equipment companies.
However, Peter Christy, research director at 451 Research, says the SD-WAN market is “tiny” compared to the traditional WAN market (MPLS), and should be thought of as optimization technology more than a new alternative to traditional WAN services.
“In 2016, we will see more and more legacy network operators embrace SD-WAN architectures by partnering with or acquiring many of the new SD-WAN providers,” he said. “Already we see some of the largest existing network product and service vendors offering their variant. Within three years, many WANs will have this kind of overlay/underlay architecture with a centrally controlled outer layer, but it is reasonable to expect that most of the large providers will survive the transition by incorporating the technology into existing product and service offerings.”
In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Hughes and Schirman talked about market opportunities and predictions for SD-WAN in the coming year.
Channel Partners: How are channel partners thinking about SD-WAN and what are the biggest benefits?
David Hughes: With SD-WAN catching on in a big way, it represents a unique growth market with projections in the billions. The promise alone to reduce the complexity and cost of the WAN has many enterprises rethinking their WAN strategy and implementing projects with real budget to make it happen. That’s where savvy channel partners are poised to win big as they transform their current customers’ businesses and lead with SD-WAN to open new accounts.
With SD-WAN, partners can differentiate their offering as they help their customers save as much as 90 percent in expensive connectivity costs. Finally, channel partners elevate their status as trusted advisors when they help their customers win in the market.
Randy Schirman: SD-WAN is a newer concept to the partner community. Historically, channel partners had become familiar with the ability to position the value of WAN optimization and acceleration. We are now seeing them embrace SD-WAN as the next generation of growth and their ability to position incremental value to the markets. There are a couple key issues for which the end user is looking for a solution: the insatiable demand for more bandwidth and …
… greater reliability from the WAN infrastructure. SD-WAN is the next-generation solution with a more intelligent, software-defined approach that delivers greater capacity, improved reliability, enhanced agility and lower costs all at the same time. IT can now provide a superior user experience even for demanding applications like voice and video, reduce the bloated telecom budget and scale to the cloud.
CP: Where is the market opportunity for channel partners?
DH: The most immediate answer is that SD-WAN enables solution providers to add new revenue streams to their business as either a standalone solution or as part of an integrated offering. Since more and more applications have moved to the cloud, there has been a growing frustration with the high cost and complexity of MPLS networks. Enterprises have been searching for a way to leverage lower-cost Internet for the first time in their WAN; or if they already have multiple links to their branches, finding a way to get more efficient use out them, without compromising performance.
RS: Partners are now looking at the primary opportunity for SD-WAN as being either a new standalone offering on their line card, or as an adjunct to strategic offerings such as UC solutions, hosting services, managed services and/or traditional WAN OP offerings. Either way, this is a fantastic opportunity for a share-of-wallet exercise with existing customers or an opportunity for new logos.
CP: From a channel-partner perspective, is the SD-WAN market going to transform the networking industry?
DH: SD-WAN has moved rapidly from initial concept last year to production deployments during 2015. And while SDN remains elusive in the data center, SD-WAN is real and is changing the way companies connect users in the branch with applications. Channel partners are realizing this innate opportunity that SD-WAN presents. Never before has a technology emerged that offers the end customer upwards of 90 percent cost savings, all while interoperating with existing networking solutions in the IT infrastructure.
RS: It’s clearly positioned to be one of the next big IT trends and we are seeing that it has already begun to transform the industry in the way customers think about and manage their WANs.
CP: Predictions for 2016?
DH: We will see more …
… companies leveraging SD-WAN technology to bring their idle links to life, adding broadband Internet as part of a hybrid MPLS-Internet WAN, or even ditching MPLS and implementing dual broadband connections to the branch.
In 2016 we will also see the emergence of new branch office architectures. Instead of deploying an expensive integrated services router as a Swiss army knife, we (envision) enterprises preferring two new alternatives: the thin branch and the converged branch. As services become more centralized and regionalized, the traditional networking footprint in small-to-medium branches can be replaced with a simple SD-WAN edge device. For larger branches, we will start to see increased adoption of hyper-converged infrastructure solutions from the likes of Nutanix, where physical compute and storage resources are complemented with network functions running as virtual machines (VMs).
RS: Businesses of all sizes (will) rethink their traditional approach to their WAN and begin adopting SD-WAN. They are realizing that they can’t continue to rely on MPLS and traditional WAN OP solutions to deliver a smart network that can cost-effectively and proactively manage capacity, quality and performance. IT organizations are being challenged daily with increased requirements of business-critical and real-time applications, such as VoIP, VDI, ERP and video conferencing in the enterprise. SD-WAN allows them to deliver high-quality, real-time network performance on a packet-by-packet basis with better QoS than MPLS can provide.