Knowledge Base: Former Juniper VAR Exec Launches SDN-Focused Startup

Recognizing the need for the channel to wrap its arms around software-defined networking sooner rather than later, one former solution provider executive is taking matters into his own hands.

Doug Marschke, former CTO at two Juniper Networks solution provider partners, this week brought out of stealth mode SDN Essentials, a startup offering professional services and training programs for solution providers targeting the SDN space.

"VARs are always generally heads-down, looking for the next deal. That's how they are successful," Marschke told CRN. "They are always pushing the box and trying to play around with margins. But here is a way they can enter a very hot market with very little investment on their side."

[Related: Dell'Oro: SDN Market To Grow More Than Sixfold Through 2017 ]

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Before forming SDN Essentials in November, Marschke was was CTO of Juniper solution provider TorreyPoint, which that same month was acquired by fellow Juniper partner FishNet Security. Prior to his one-year stint at TorreyPoint, Marschke spent four years as CTO of Proteus Networks, a provider of managed services, consulting and training resources specific to Juniper technology.

But behind the scenes, Marschke said he's spent the past two years studying SDN technologies and participating in SDN-focused industry groups such as the Open Networking Foundation, all with the aim of bringing that knowledge to the channel.

"As SDN and NFV [network functions virtualization] come up and different competitors drive down hardware costs, something has got to change," Marschke said. "I want to be there to help the VARs that have the ability to see that future."

Out of the gate, Marschke said SDN Essentials is offering three training courses. The first is a sort of "SDN 101" course, focusing on the fundamentals of SDN architectures, the difference between network overlay and underlay approaches, real-world SDN use cases, and an overview of various vendor SDN strategies.

The second course, Marschke said, is for network engineers, and includes more hands-on content for understanding how to build an SDN network and control that network using different policies and flows. The third course, designed for solution providers actually performing SDN implementations, will cover topics such as deploying an SDN controller, writing SDN applications and developing SDN ASICs.

The first and second courses kick off next month in various cities throughout North America, and cost $900 and $1,700 a seat, respectively. The third course for SDN implementers starts in June, and costs $1,700 a seat.

Down the line, SDN Essentials will be rolling out vendor-specific SDN training targeting Cisco Systems, Juniper, Arista Networks and others, Marschke said.

In addition to training, SDN Essentials has a number of SDN-focused professional services, 95 percent of which Marschke said will be delivered through the channel. These professional services include SDN readiness assessments, architecture designs, proof of concepts, and SDN implementations and migrations. SDN Essentials will offer partners reselling these services between 15 percent and 25 percent margins, Marschke said, based on the agreement.

Newark, Del.-based SDN Essentials also is readying a managed services practice and SDN software solutions for launch later this year.

"Services are the first insertion point for SDN. It's the place to start," Marschke said. "And I think any reseller who ignores that will probably be hurting in 2015."

Marschke said now seemed like the time to formally launch SDN Essentials, given the traction the technology has seen in the marketplace. "The hype is finally becoming a reality," he said.

Most industry analysts would agree. IDC, for its part, said in November that it expects the SDN market to reach $2.7 billion by 2016.