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.
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.”