2017 Network Connectivity Partner Programs Guide: SD-WAN's Defining Moment

SD-WAN isn't just a buzzword anymore. Network connectivity providers and solution providers are getting behind SD-WAN because it not only helps businesses securely connect to distributed office locations, data centers and cloud environments, it's also propelling connectivity conversations with customers beyond price and into new sales opportunities.

However, SD-WAN isn't yet synonymous with selling connectivity. As networking environments grow increasingly complex, the connectivity conversation must evolve to include emerging technologies that can help solution providers build more efficient networks for their customers while powering their customers' business expectations.

CRN's Network Connectivity Partner Program Guide — available here — is full of providers that can help partners learn about emerging technologies like SD-WAN and how to have application-level discussions with their clients. Telecom agent partners have been selling connectivity for years, but as these partners — as well as VARs and MSPs — start selling applications, SD-WAN can be an integral add-on for optimizing a voice or cloud-based solution.

While not yet mainstream, SD-WAN is at the forefront of many cloud enablement conversations with partners who are catching on to the technology quickly, said Jonathan Hartman, vice president of sales for PlanetOne, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based master agency.

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"We have to talk about applications before we talk about connectivity, and we are really encouraging our partners to speak to customers at the application level to learn what their desired business outcomes are in order to offer full solutions," he said. SD-WAN is an enablement tool — not just another "widget" — that can ensure the performance and reliability of applications, Hartman said. "Partners should be looking at business outcomes and work backwards, and use SD-WAN to connect the customer to those applications in the most effective manner," he said.

Connectivity-centric conversations of old used to focus on logistics, like if a customer was planning on opening a new location or moving. But now, every aspect of the business is being discussed between partners and customers, such as moving data into the cloud, disaster recovery plans, and even social media strategies, said Julie Dzubay, vice president of sales operations for Malibu, Calif.-based master agent WTG.

"Partners aren't focusing on just the basic connectivity needs of their customers anymore. You truly have to understand what their business focus is for the next one, three, or five years out," she said.

The partners that are looking at solutions as a whole, such as coupling networking technologies like SD-WAN with bandwidth and voice products, are the partners that are seeing the most success today, Dzubay said.

According to research ­firm IDC, the SD-WAN market will be valued at $6 billion by 2020. IDC also predicted that SD-WAN will be adopted by 60 percent of enterprises as a critical component of remote branch connectivity by as soon as 2018.

Alan Sandler, founder and managing partner of Hermosa Beach, Calif.-based Sandler Partners, said at least 50 percent of the master agent's partners today are bringing SD-WAN into their customer conversations.

"SD-WAN has proliferated faster through our organization and sales partners than any other technology prior," Sandler said.