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September 26, 2018
By Dave Greenfield, Cato Networks
There are exciting times ahead for VARs, agents, or anyone in the channel selling networking, security, unified-communication and cloud services. The status quo of MPLS, routers and network-security appliances is being challenged by a new set of technologies based on software, virtualization, and cloud delivery.
The underlying business driver is speed. Enterprises need to move fast to stay competitive and meet user demands for doing business from any device, with optimal access to their data and their colleagues anywhere in the world. What we need is an affordable MPLS alternative. How can the network operate at business speed? By becoming simpler, more automated, and less constrained from capacity and cost standpoints.
The way we as an industry sell and the way customers traditionally buy from us inhibit the transformation to needed to simplify the network and maximize speed. We use short-term thinking to extend rigid and expensive MPLS contracts even though customers need more internet-bound capacity than ever before. We sell networking and security as point-products that increase overall complexity. We position expensive, managed services as “essential” and prevent self-service network management because customers feel hard pressed to manage all the products used to deliver the services.
We recently compiled a list of 20 top SD-WAN providers offering products and services via channel partners.
SD-WAN came onto the scene to address some of these challenges. SD-WAN enables businesses to use a mix of services at the branch to boost capacity and lower cost per Mbit/s. SD-WAN automates the use of multiple transports to improve resiliency and reduce manual network changes. These are all commendable attributes.
But SD-WAN also drives the need for new, adjacent technologies that were not part of the legacy MPLS and appliances footprint — namely security, cloud and mobility.
First, SD-WAN requires deeper security. As we connect branches to the internet, we need to apply comprehensive network security and threat protection to internet-bound traffic. These enhanced security capabilities are not part of a typical SD-WAN box. A UTM appliance or a cloud-based security solution is needed with its extra costs and separate management.
Second, SD-WAN should improve cloud access but an edge SD-WAN appliance in the branch is too far away from cloud data centers, such as Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, as well as public-cloud applications, such as Office 365. Customers have to deploy SD-WAN edge appliances in cloud datacenters or build regional hubs close to their cloud providers, in the case of cloud applications.
Third, mobile users need the same optimized access as branch users. And yet, SD-WAN appliances do nothing to support mobile user access to physical data centers and cloud resources.
The fourth underlying theme is affordable global access. As the WAN extends globally, the public internet isn’t really an option for loss-sensitive applications. If the enterprise must keep global MPLS, cost reduction and the improved agility promised by SD-WAN and internet connectivity is …
… severely restricted.
SD-WAN is part of a bigger context. Enterprises are in pursuit of a cost-effective, secure and agile network that supports the way business gets done today — in the office, on the road, and using a wide range of cloud services. You can go about it in two ways. Either add SD-WAN to the pile of point products and services already in use, or transform the WAN to holistically enable optimized regional and global access, extend full network security everywhere, seamlessly integrate cloud resources and mobile users, and deliver a self-service management model. (You can see examples here).
You have to skate to where the puck will be. Help customers build a road map to a real WAN transformation that will simplify their network, increase agility, reduce costs and improve security posture. This value proposition will help you win business and foster strong, trusted-adviser relationships.
Dave Greenfield is the secure networking evangelist for Cato Networks.
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