MSPs play a key role in transitioning customers to software-defined WAN technologies, which enable lower-cost WANs using broadband resources.

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While more companies are shifting to cloud-based applications, legacy wide area networks (WAN) are struggling to provide the required levels of service that customers need to support multiple locations, and remote workers.

The answer is simple: Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) technologies allow companies to build lower-cost WANs using broadband resources. This improves the speed and efficiency of moving data to the cloud and between different locations. Barracuda recently issued a report on the opportunities (and some challenges) that SD-WANs present for MSPs that want to help their clients improve the performance of their applications and their networks.

According to IDC, the SD-WAN market is growing at a 70% CAGR and should reach $8 billion within the next three years. However, most companies don’t fully understand the technology. An MSP with expertise in this space can create some lucrative opportunities to help clients that are struggling with connectivity and latency issues. That opportunity is only going to grow as more applications move to the cloud.

Addressing Network Pain Points

Recently, Barracuda teamed up with Vanson Bourne to survey more than 900 global IT leaders about SD-WAN usage. Almost all of the respondents (98%) had networking challenges with their current WAN set-up. Complexity (48%), cloud performance (47%) and performance between locations (46%) were the most significant problems encountered by MSPs.

SD-WAN can address these pain points as it effectively decouples the networking hardware from the means of controlling it and virtualizing the WAN to make it easier to configure and to route traffic. Further, SD-WAN makes it easier to manage security policies and bandwidth from a central location, while making it possible to monitor and prioritize traffic for specific applications.

There are also some clear benefits in terms of both performance and cost when it comes to SD-WAN. Nearly half of respondents said they’d reduced overall costs using SD-WAN, while more than one third (36%) had reduced costs specifically for MPLS services. Organizations in the survey estimate they could save more than $1.3 million on MPLS networking costs within the first 12 months of using SD-WAN.

And, according to the survey, one-third of IT leaders have already deployed SD-WAN at the majority of their sites, and half are in the process of doing so, or will do so within the next year.

Security Is a Top Investment Priority

When it comes to selecting an SD-WAN solution, security is top of mind. In fact, 92% of respondents agreed that security should be the top priority when considering an SD-WAN solution. Additionally, a secure SD-WAN was one of the three most invested in security measures over the past 12 months for 25 percent of respondents.

Organizations leveraging an SD-WAN solution should install security devices at each location. There are a variety of configurations available, and many end users are unsure which types of devices to deploy.

According to Barracuda’s data, just under a third of respondents are using a pure-play SD-WAN with basic security on top of their existing protection. A roughly equal number replaced existing solutions with a pure-play SD-WAN and security solution, but this approach is costly and requires more labor and management. Further, 18% have switched to a cloud-only security and SD-WAN solution, while a quarter have replaced their existing solution with a single system combining advanced security and SD-WAN in one appliance at each gateway edge. This last option is precisely what Barracuda Networks has designed in its CloudGen Firewall product.

Barracuda also found that 42% of respondents favored an easier-to-administer single-box solution that provides the best possible security and SD-WAN connectivity. The single-box solution was also the most popular option for those planning to deploy or considering SD-WAN (31%).

Additionally, 81% of respondents said advanced threat protection and centralized management was very important or crucial to their SD-WAN purchase. A single-box approach can lower costs, increase flexibility and make it easier to deploy the SD-WAN solution.

The Role of the MSP in Transitioning to SD-WAN

MSPs can help companies in transitioning to SD-WAN, and it is clear that those who are interested in deploying SD-WAN need help: 43% of respondents to the survey said they have knowledge gaps when it comes to SD-WAN technology.

SD-WAN provides intrinsic benefits over legacy networks by improving performance, reducing costs, and providing built-in security. Traffic is encrypted from end-to-end by default, and security can be easily integrated into connectivity using this approach. But these companies need guidance, and the right security model to be successful.

Single-box solutions like Barracuda CloudGen Firewalls offer both advanced threat protection and advanced SD-WAN capabilities that increase network availability and application performance. For clients with multiple locations and those who are looking to increase the use of cloud-based applications, SD-WAN represents an essential source of future business.

Nathan Bradbury is Manager of Systems Engineering for Barracuda MSP, a provider of security and data protection solutions for managed services providers.


This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship.

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