Managed SD-WAN Is The Next Wave Partners Should Catch, Says Cisco

Cisco Systems is getting the channel ready for the "next evolution" of SD-WAN, which is centered on managed SD-WAN services, according to the company.

SD-WAN is a big opportunity for partners by itself, but it's opening up the door for additional offerings, like consultative and implementation services. Cisco Systems is helping the channel get in at the ground level with the "next evolution" of SD-WAN: managed SD-WAN, the tech leader said.

Research firm IDC has predicted that the SD-WAN infrastructure market will grow to $4.5 billion by 2022. While many customers initially deployed SD-WAN with self-managed hardware and software, there's a shift underway because enterprises are moving away from managing their own SD-WAN. Instead, these companies are offloading that work to partners in the form of a managed service SD-WAN model.

"We think that's a huge opportunity for partners in this space because they now are not only focused on the sale of the infrastructure, but as the solution provider, I can be that trusted advisor since I'll take over the environment and manage it for my customer," said Jason Gallo, global senior director of partner sales business development for San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco.

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[Related: 5 Things To Know About Cisco SD-WAN]

The next wave of SD-WAN goes beyond updating a set of routers. It includes setting up new of policies, managing complex architectures, and making sure they are secure along the entire way, Gallo said.

Maryland Heights, Mo.-based World Wide Technology (WWT), a top global Cisco partner, is selling SD-WAN solution from several vendors in the enterprise and service provider space, but Cisco's SD-WAN services are highly requested by customers, said Tom Schepers, practice manager of network solutions and business strategy for WWT.

In fact, SD-WAN in the past year has been the most requested technology within WWT's Advanced Technology Center [ATC], a place that the company uses to showcase technologies and conduct trainings, Schepers said. "For the last year and a half, SD-WAN in the ATC have far outstripped requested for any other technology we have in the ATC," he said.

WWT offers many services around SD-WAN for its customers, including consultative and professional services, networking readiness assessments and training, as well as managed SD-WAN services for both Cisco's Meraki and Viptela-powered SD-WAN services. With SD-WAN sales, there's plenty of room for partners to bring a full consultative engagement to the table and extend their different practices, such as security services and cloud strategy consulting, Schepers said.

"You're bringing routing, cloud and security together and walking the customer through that journey is pretty critical," he said.

To firmly embrace the opportunities that are springing up around managed SD-WAN services, partners should work with vendors that give them the most control, Cisco's Gallo said. Cisco SD-WAN is a great connection point for partners that have data center practices or have already started to win in the access or security space, he added.

"We think that partners that are leading with things like security now have a great pull-through with managed Cisco SD-WAN because we are the only vendor that has the full end-to-end networking story," Gallo said.

Managed SD-WAN services let partners look more holistically at the customer's entire IT environment -- in addition to bringing in more recurring revenue for partners -- which lines up with Cisco's lifecycle and customer experience approach it has adopted within the channel, Gallo said.

To that end, Cisco is helping partners sell managed SD-WAN services through new incentives and enablement resources. One incentive, which is unique to Cisco's portfolio, rewards partners for expanding their recurring revenue over time or when a partner renews an SD-WAN service. This rebate is a part of Cisco's VIP rebate program.

"Going along the journey with the customer creates the most stickiness," Gallo said. "And recurring revenue is much more highly valued from a market perspective, so we think it's a great direction for partners to have." Cisco also during the quarter made available a webinar series for its partners that discussed the competitive differentiators of Cisco's SD-WAN portfolio. "To go to market as an MSP, you have to truly manage and service your customer," Gallo said. "We're making enablement and training available to the channel as a part of this SD-WAN push."