NexGen Cloud: Partner Panel Calls SD-WAN Big Opportunity For Customers Of All Sizes

Software-defined wide area networks have become a profitable cloud-based opportunity for the channel, according to a panel of solution providers.

The solution providers, who spoke to an audience of their peers and their vendor partners on Wednesday at the NexGen Cloud Conference and Expo, said software-defined wide area networking, or SD-WAN, comes in a variety of solutions suitable for customers ranging from small businesses to enterprises.

Panel moderator Khali Henderson, senior partner of Buzz Theory Strategies and a member of the board of directors of the Technology Channel Association, said the WAN value chain is evolving away from traditional routers and switches and towards service providers bringing networking to clients.

[Related: Solution Provider Panel: Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Doesn't Mean Throwing Out Existing IT Investments]

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Those changes also include more point solutions and more layering on of services, like security, to the network. Also included is the offering of SD-WAN-as-a-service, and the move by carriers to increasingly adopt SD-WAN technology, Henderson said.

At the same time, the SD-WAN market is growing, with SD-WAN optimization set to grow to $1.3 billion by 2020, and the total SD-WAN market set to grow to about $6 billion, Henderson said, citing studies from analyst firm HIS.

"What does it mean to you?" she said. "You are getting more opportunities to bring SD-WAN to our clients."

Eric Beller, senior vice president of sales at Sandler Partners, a Hermosa Beach, Calif.-based cloud services provider, said that while "SD-WAN" is a relatively new term, the concept has been around for years, although earlier implementations were much more complicated than they are now.

SD-WAN in its most basic form is really about how to simplify the approach to customer networking infrastructures, with an on-premises controller that accelerates network traffic, Beller said. A good SD-WAN solution will support VPNs, provide a portal to handle management of the WAN, support dynamic pathing based on customers' particular environments, and support a variety of connectivity and internet environments, he said.

"In a nutshell, it's really the simplification of how to accelerate the wide area network," he said.

Frank Cittadino, co-founder and executive vice president at QoS Consulting, an El Segundo, Calif.-based networking and cloud solution provider, said SD-WAN brings companies best-of-breed networking technologies in a seamless fashion with user control to allow customers focus less on the wide area network and more on the value they bring to their businesses.

A good SD-WAN solution, whether it is an on-premises solution or has an orchestration layer on top, automatically decides how to accelerate network traffic based on business demand, Cittadino said.

In the end, it's all about the application, he said. "If the applications perform well and stay up, they bring value to the business," he said.

SD-WAN provides businesses with a giant Ethernet connection to everywhere, said William Craig, chief technology officer and principal solutions architect at NuResolution Consulting, a Gallatin, Tenn.-based provider of cloud, hosting, and networking services.

Businesses have multiple locations and remote users to support even as they look for better ways to get improved value from their data centers, Craig said. "SD-WAN allows you to get value from anywhere," he said.

SD-WAN provides portal-based management, network redundancy, and the ability to use a support desk instead of sending people to manage issues, Craig said.

"You've got 30 locations," he said. "I guarantee you won't have the resources from the carriers to support all that."

SD-WAN is a very disruptive technology, with at least 17 different providers and six or more hardware infrastructure, Beller said.

Some solutions can be supplemented by, or fixed by, a liberal application of bandwidth for customers willing to spend "an arm and a leg" for it, he said. "In the end, you have to be a business consultant to understand your customers' needs," he said.

Customers are ready for SD-WAN solutions when they are tired of buying expensive equipment and are looking to hire more support people, Cittadino said. He said his company typically works with two or three carriers to offer a variety of choices.

When looking for the right SD-WAN provider, the size of the customer implementation is a key issue, Craig said. Some vendors only offer one or two pieces of the functionality of a full SD-WAN implementation, including WAN and application performance, but for many smaller clients that may be enough, he said.