Service Providers Have a Critical Role in Managed SD-WAN Services, But Do Customers Know It?
By Mike Sapien, Chief Analyst, Ovum
Enterprises are confused today by the multiple messages and promotions surrounding managed SD-WAN services coming predominately from the technology vendors. Most service providers are getting lost in the marketing hype around the torrent of press releases regarding managed SD-WAN service partnerships. Clearly, SD-WAN technology vendors are outshouting service providers, with most enterprise customers gaining awareness and education of SD-WAN by way of the vendor community. Ovum has two recent surveys that bear this out, with one survey showing that enterprises were three times more likely to approach vendors about new networking technology.
Most service providers have been reluctant to disclose details of their managed SD-WAN service offerings. They need to invest more resources in outbound marketing campaigns to promote their managed SD-WAN service offers and supporting use cases. Many customers do not know or value the role of the service provider in the implementation and management of SD-WAN services. As customers get deluged by SD-WAN vendor offers, it’s time for service providers to both promote and educate customers on their new managed service offerings and the critical value they can bring to customers.
Even do-it-yourself enterprises that have been experimenting to get a jump on others, seeking to gain an understanding of managed SD-WAN services, are seeing the need for ongoing maintenance and support that goes beyond what their internal resources or staffing can handle. Many enterprises will start looking for a fully managed service once they get a taste of SD-WAN’s benefits and better understand their WAN requirements for application performance and availability.
What are the service provider benefits or areas of value in supporting managed SD-WAN services? Ovum identifies the following areas where enterprises can and should consider a service provider:
- Installation and setup during early testing and final deployment
- Offering different levels and tiers of managed support
- Supporting trials or pilots for initial testing and final configurations
- Sharing experience across different deployments and use cases
- Leveraging their knowledge of the WAN services
- Additional knowledge and management of the vendors
- Long-term monitoring, repair, and management of upgrade cycles
Ovum research from late 2017 ranks network providers among the top three partner picks for SD-WAN. That’s the good news. The bad news is that SD-WAN technology vendors outrank network providers as a partner pick. In this same survey, enterprises considering NFV are about equally likely to consider an integrator/IT solution partner. Service providers need to develop their own role definition, document it well, and promote the value-added benefits to their existing customers and prospects. If they wait too long, enterprises are sure to move ahead without them.
Service providers seem to have gotten lost in the PR shuffle with managed SD-WAN services. With all the media coming predominately from the vendor community, enterprise customers are getting only one side of the SD-WAN story. Service providers have a vital and value-added role in the design, installation, deployment, repair, and ongoing monitoring of managed SD-WAN services that most customers won’t fully understand or realize until something goes awry. Service providers are wise to invest in more outbound communication and education that clearly conveys their value-added role and the benefits they bring to managed services, such as tiered SD-WAN services. Their ability to effectively promote and influence the market may be the difference between major, high-volume adoption with their major customer base and merely picking up the handful of technology laggards.