Network Solutions Provider CEO Phillip Walker recalls the rise and fall in demand.

Jeffrey Schwartz

August 31, 2020

3 Min Read
COVID-19 pandemic

Before COVID-19 emerged, many Network Solutions Provider (NSP) customers were looking to boost connectivity to branch offices with SD-WAN. Not surprisingly, SD-WAN demand plummeted as customers abruptly had to focus on enabling their employees to work from home.

But within months, SD-WAN demand started to bounce back.

Phillip Walker, NSP’s CEO, recalled how priorities shifted in the early days of the pandemic. NSP, which started a master agent and is now a managed services provider (MSP), serves SMBs, midsize and enterprise customers. Its primary customers are media companies in Los Angeles and fast-growth tech companies in Silicon Valley. In a recent interview with Channel Futures, Walker shared how COVID-19 has changed how organizations are evaluating their network requirements.

Immediately prior to the pandemic, customers were in various stages of evaluating SDN to boost connectivity at their branch offices. As organizations were forced to have their employees work at home with little notice, it became a moot concern.


NSP’s Phillip Walker

“In the beginning, we saw a very big slowdown in demand for SD-WAN,” Walker said. “People hunkered down with what they had. They were relying on VPNs to get connections. And they deployed solutions like VMware or Citrix. Since most of their networks are office-driven and people weren’t in the office, they weren’t going to worry about it. It just went by the wayside.”

Initially, customers scrambled to address tactical requirements to enable employees to work from home.

“MiFi devices [portable hotspots] obviously went off the shelf,” Walker said. “People didn’t want to use their personal cellphones for hotspots for connectivity.”

Post-COVID-19 Future of Remote Work

But as employees working from home had what they needed, demand for SD-WAN rebounded, only with a different use case. Rather than branch offices, SD-WAN became attractive for boosting connectivity to employees’ homes.

“They just moved the perimeter and the edge,” Walker said.

A recent report by Dell’Oro Group found that NSP wasn’t alone in experiencing a bounce back in demand for SD-WAN.


Dell’Oro Group’s Shin Umeda

“There is no doubt that COVID-19 has created a major bump in the road,” noted Dell’Oro Group VP Shin Umeda. “But the fundamental drivers for SD-WAN adoption have not changed, and may even be enhanced if work from home solutions can be incorporated.”

NSP’s Walker said he also agrees with predictions that remote work for many of his clients will become permanent.

“I think some companies are never going to go back to the office,” he said. “And at that point, they’re going to need an SD-WAN solution. They are also going to need some sort of mobile plan. Some are going to move away from traditional solutions. Things like iPad Pros and Surface laptops with built-in LTE are going to become more prevalent.”

While many tablets have built-in LTE connectivity, very few PCs do, though the number has increased. Walker acknowledged the limits of LTE services and the dearth of reliable and affordable 5G.

“That gets into a carrier issue and that’s why we’re looking at bonding multiple LTE connections together until there’s something more viable,” he said.

Providers of edge networking solutions such as Cradlepoint and Bigleaf Networks are among those courting MSPs with bonding solutions. Walker said NSP is providing customers with solutions that let them bond LTE connections from multiple wireless carriers. In addition to providing increased bandwidth by aggregating connections, bonding can automatically switch networks, based on availability.

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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