4 SD-WAN Partner Practice Models that Drive Profitability


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Cisco's Jason Gallo

As network technologies shift from rigid components to flexible, multipurpose software platforms, routing transcends the router and physical data centers yield priority to securely distributed centers of data. This new technology dynamic is ripe with software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) opportunities for channel partners such as resellers, integrators and service providers, opportunities that are fueled by customer demand for application performance, cloud/software-as-a-service and Internet of Things.

Channel Partners Insights logoTo effectively advise customers on SD-WAN opportunities, channel partners must align themselves with vendors that offer secure, scalable, intent-based networks. Customers want an SD-WAN solution that provides protection for users, devices and applications, whether deployed on premises or in the cloud. Customers want an SD-WAN solution comprehensive enough to scale to, and interact with, multiple network domains. They also need an SD-WAN solution that has intelligence through automation, and API programmability. This allows their channel partners to tailor the solution to their specific business intent.


For channel partners, once they understand customer’s needs and identify the technology vendors who offer a comprehensive, intent-based network, they must then self-assess their competencies and gaps. This requires them to examine their skills beyond technology competencies. They must also courageously take on transformational change beyond the comfort of their historical business models. Transformations like this require a clear understanding of three key steps to building out an SD-WAN Channel Partner Practice. (See figure to the left).

Cisco's 3 Steps to develop an SD-WAN partner practice

Source: Cisco Global Partner Organization

Various practice components require considerations of technology road maps, account delivery and control, operations and, ultimately, how customers want to consume the technology over time to achieve their desired success. Furthermore, specific to SD-WAN, many analysts believe customers will prefer to purchase this technology as a managed service.

For many partners, delivering a managed service compounds the transformational challenge they already face in learning the SD-WAN technology.

Inherent to offering a managed service is the channel partner’s readiness to take on the customers’ risks. That’s in exchange for a committed service level agreement. Assuring a customer’s service continuity despite force majeure — shifting global economics, major technology feature evolutions or unexpected global pandemics — is a lot for a channel partner.

However, with risk comes reward. The benefit of SD-WAN managed services for partners is predictable long-term recurring revenue. Moving from one-off, project-based revenue streams to ongoing recurring revenue streams has a fly-wheel effect. You can reinvest and grow practice resources more predictably.

SD-WAN Partner Business Models

The good news is channel partners don’t have to transform all at once. There are multiple business models they can leverage to methodically increase SD-WAN practice capabilities over time while continuing to meet the customer’s requirements. This spans from basic solution resale with the lowest time-to-market requirements to a full managed service offer with large initial investments and time-to-market, but the highest profitability in the long run.

Once channel partners decide which model fits their objectives, they can then team with …

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