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Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.


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November 18, 2020 |

The SD-WAN Explosion

SD-WAN adoption is starting to extend down from the midmarket, and managed service providers are getting on the bandwagon.

SD-WAN has made C2 Computer Services a “”hero”” in the eyes of its customers struggling with internet reliability, according to Craig Lojewski, president and CEO.

The Coral Springs, Fla.-based managed service provider started deploying software-defined wide-area networking about a year ago to provide redundancy and improve internet speed and performance for its customers. “”Some of these customers’ internet was going down once a week, or even once a month, and now those problems are gone. C2 fixed that; we’re the hero in that scenario,”” says Lojewski. “”It’s been a great tool to add to our stack as a managed service provider.””

Craig Lojewski

Lojewski has jumped on a growing market, expected to climb at a 30.8% CAGR worldwide through 2023 to $5.25 billion, according to IDC. Unlike traditional router-based WAN technology, SD-WAN uses multiple connection methods such as MPLS, broadband internet, and 3G/4G to optimize performance and manageability.

“”It was clear that the market needed to move away from a traditional point-to-point routing market to more of a flexible and agile application delivery-focused connectivity,”” explains Rohit Mehra, vice president of network infrastructure at IDC. “”That’s what SD-WAN brought to the table, more intelligence in terms of how routing handled applications, more agility in terms of being able to, on the fly, adapt to the application needs and provide a better user experience.””

With the ability to optimize routing decisions based on factors such as cost and business priority, SD-WAN is “”freeing up other resources that make the network more efficient,”” says Andrew Ballema, vice president of sales at Chicago-area managed services provider MNJ Technologies and its wholly owned subsidiary Ignyte, a vendor-agnostic provider of managed SD-WAN and connectivity services. “”You can certainly lower your bandwidth costs considerably by implementing an SD-WAN within your network.””

But implementing SD-WAN is not just about saving money. It’s also about application optimization, which ultimately improves customer or employee experience. “”Just think of applications that you’ve used, where it’s slow and it doesn’t load, and it just stinks,”” Ballema says. “”But it’s probably because it’s not the right connection going in and out of it.””

The “”sweet spot”” of early adopters in a market Mehra says is about five years old was midmarket to larger enterprises that were “”inherently distributed in nature.”” Today, SD-WAN adoption is starting to extend down from the midmarket, says Mehra, pointing to two drivers: MSPs upping their SD-WAN skill set in choosing and deploying appropriate solutions for customers; and the solutions themselves. “”As opposed to the early stage, it’s not a one size fits all,”” Mehra says. “”You have multiple solutions from different vendors, so you can pick and choose, and balance your need for simplicity versus your need for the advanced functionality.””

Indeed, vendors are targeting the SMB market with solutions such as the Untangle SD-WAN Router, ADTRAN‘s 934 SD-WAN edge appliance, and Fortinet‘s FortiGate 40F appliance.

Businesses with multiple locations stand to benefit from SD-WAN in particular. “”The more distributed they are, the more remote locations they have, obviously the value of embracing SD-WAN will be that much more,”” Mehra says.

According to the 2019 SMB IT Security Report from Untangle, 40% of SMBs now have at least five employee locations, and 24% of respondents have or plan to implement an SD-WAN solution. The research cites the biggest incentives for SD-WAN implementation as secure connectivity for remote branches and ease of network management.

Mehra also expects SD-WAN to play a role in supporting a remote work force as the impact of COVID-19 lingers. “”Balancing work-from-home usage with on-site employees is an area that SD-WAN also is attempting to address.””

Analyst firm Omdia says market growth is in part being driven by service providers selling SD-WAN solutions bundled with other services. MNJ Technologies, for instance, designs, architects, deploys, and manages SD-WAN solutions through the entire lifecycle, Ballema explains.

Andrew Ballema

MNJ works with SD-WAN vendors like Cisco Meraki, Silver Peak, Fortinet, Palo Alto Networks, and CloudGenix (now owned by Palo Alto), and customers can either purchase the hardware themselves or “”consume”” it as a service from MNJ. Uniquely, MNJ is also a local exchange carrier and works with 80 telecom providers globally to provide and bill customers for the bandwidth.

“”Anyone can go out there and sell a box and be on their way, but where you provide value is around an extension of a customer’s IT staff to not only help them evaluate what they have, but design and architect a solution that is going to work for what their needs are and … can help deploy it and then manage it,”” Ballema says. “”That’s where the true SD-WAN value lies.””

Developing an SD-WAN line of business and owning the SD-WAN customer relationship like MNJ is a complex undertaking, Ballema says. “”There’s a ton of moving parts.”” It requires partnerships with OEM SD-WAN providers, hiring or training engineers to support and manage the technology, and the ability to bill customers monthly for the carrier services.

Alternatively, MSPs like C2 are adding SD-WAN to their offerings by acting as a liaison between the customer and the SD-WAN provider and carrier. Lojewski says C2 works with a telecom agent to bring in a secondary carrier at customer sites, and SD-WAN vendor Bigleaf preconfigures the appliance based on the C2 customer’s IP addresses, carriers, and circuit speeds. Customers pay Bigleaf and the secondary carrier directly.

C2 recently deployed a Bigleaf SD-WAN with a secondary carrier for a dental surgical center. “”They had been struggling with their internet service. It would just go down, sometimes for a few minutes and sometimes for hours,”” disrupting communication with doctors in remote locations as well as the corporate office. Now, he says, “”If one carrier or the other goes down, they will continue to operate without even knowing that there’s a problem.””

Offering SD-WAN is less about boosting revenue for Lojewski and all about boosting customer satisfaction and stickiness. “”I have happier customers that have better service and better reliability,”” he says. “”It keeps my time down having to manage the customers because we charge a flat fee for unlimited service and support. So the better our systems are running, the happier our customers are, then the more profitable it is for me.””

While not every SMB requires SD-WAN, it can make a difference for those that do, Lojewski says. “”If they have a need for more speed and they want that extra redundancy, then it’s a perfect fit for a couple of hundred bucks a month”” plus the cost of the secondary carrier.

MSPs have an important role to play in this market too, according to Ballema. “”Technology is moving so fast and it’s changing so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. [Organizations] need a partner like MNJ to help them evaluate this stuff.””

He likens the trajectory of SD-WAN to unified communications. “”Six years ago, there wasn’t a CIO in America that would be willing to take their PBX and put it in the cloud. Now you can’t find any firm out there that doesn’t have UCaaS. I put SD-WAN in that same category. We’re certainly not there yet, but at some point this technology is going to be everywhere. So the market opportunity for firms to go out there and sell and manage this stuff … is exponentially massive.””

Source: iStock

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