Tag Archives: WAN

Here's what an industry expert has to say about SD-WAN.

Helping Customers See the Benefits of SD-WAN

Struggling to sell SD-WAN? Take some advice from an industry expert.

WHere's what an industry expert has to say about SD-WAN. hile the advantages of a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) are obvious to those in the networking house, outsiders can sometimes struggle to see the strengths of this new type of technology. Fortunately, Chris Donlan, a Solutions Architect and SD-WAN Evangelist for MicroCorp, is here to break down the challenges plaguing many partners.

“The value of SD-WAN is simple,” says Donlan. “At its core, SD-WAN is an evolution of WAN technologies that allows end-users to overcome inherent network vulnerabilities to meet the new demands of business applications today and increasing migrations to cloud solutions.

Think of it this way: cable networks pose their own challenges with network performance, and telco carrier networks aren’t infallible either. Add in the inherent nature of the internet as an uncontrollable entity, and there’s a lot of opportunity for uncertainty and exposure to poor application performance. SD-WAN empowers end users to bypass these limitations with software-based solutions utilizing multiple WAN connections.

Here are a few of the more tangible benefits SD-WAN offers:

  • Connection resiliency
  • Network visibility
  • Intelligent packet routing
  • Rapid deployment
  • Improved network management

Despite these benefits, however, partners still face a variety of roadblocks when presenting SD-WAN as the most appropriate solution for customers.

“One of the current challenges of SD-WAN is that it’s new to the market as the SD-WAN ‘package.’ The technologies have been around a while, just not all packaged together,” says Donlan, “so there’s hesitancy to adopt what appears to be new technology. Another issue is that the provider landscape makes it very confusing for end users. It seems every week there is a new provider promoting their SD-WAN. And what do people do when they’re confused? They do nothing; it paralyzes them.”

But it doesn’t have to come to that deer-in-the-headlights situation for your customers, as Donlan explains. Shifting the way you think about SD-WAN, and changing the way you position it to your customers can instantly erase any confusion.

“A lot of people ask me how to sell SD-WAN,” says Donlan. “I tell them, the the important thing to understand is that SD-WAN isn’t an it. SD-WAN doesn’t have features and benefits, and it’s not something you can sell like a phone system. Instead, SD-WAN has the technological capability to allow a business to run much more efficiently. Notice, however I haven’t said it reduces costs.”

Donlan explains how some unenlightened folks may attempt to position SD-WAN as a cost-saving solution for any customer, but the technology doesn’t necessarily boost everyone’s bottom line.

“Unfortunately, it’s a common misconception that SD-WAN can save everyone money,” says Donlan. “That’s not necessarily the case. In one scenario, it might, but in another scenario, it might not. SD-WAN can, however, save you soft costs such as downtime, and it makes networks easier to manage. But partners who start the conversation with ‘It’s going to save you money,’ might not end up where they thought they would.”

So what benefits should partners suggest first when presenting SD-WAN to customers? In Donlan’s view, it largely depends upon the business.

“Connectivity assurance, network visibility and management, as well as application performance are important advantages of SD-WAN,” says Donlan, “but network visibility isn’t going to mean anything to a CEO. However, for somebody whose job it is to manage the network, being able to make decisions based on visibility and analysis is incredibly valuable.”

In today’s data-driven world, there’s endless information at our fingertips. SD-WAN gives you the tools you need to derive insights from that information. “For instance, SD-WAN can show you historical reports about network performance,” says Donlan. “And whether it’s internet or MPLS, you can review your network’s performance during the last 30 days and confront your carrier if they’re not living up to their end of the SLA. But that’s just an example. There’s all kinds of information there that’s available with SD-WAN.

SD-WAN can be confusing for many individuals who aren’t familiar with the in and outs of networking. But by positioning the technology in the right light and explaining in clear terms what your customers stand to gain, SD-WAN should be an easy sell.

Contact MicroCorp and Chris to learn more about how to sell SD-WAN.

Check out our ultimate guide on selling SD-WAN to learn more about the technology itself, how it integrates and supports other solutions, and how channel partners can take full advantage of it.

How to tell your customer needs SD-WAN.

When Do Your Customers Need SD-WAN?

How to tell your customer needs SD-WAN.We all know there are plenty of benefits to software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN), but not everybody has caught on to that point yet. Maybe some are making do with their current WAN setup, or others aren’t even hooked into a WAN at all. That means opportunity, and there are ways to tell when a customer could use some help from SD-WAN.

How Can I Tell When a Customer Needs SD-WAN?

Complaints about network quality. Using SD-WAN can leverage multiple WAN links (MPLS, DIA, Broadband, LTE) utilizing load balancing and WAN optimization features to increase network reliability. Any cloud-based application must have network reliability to perform as the business intends it to; uptime to the cloud is critical.

Complaints about network cost. Depending on the needs and requirements of the business, MPLS may be removed and replaced with a hybrid (MPLS and internet) or dual internet-based option. Most MPLS networks are single-threaded and vulnerable to downtime. SD-WAN can allow for redundant failover WAN connections working in real time.

Complaints about network reliability. One of SD-WAN’s core components is visibility into the network links’ health through a user portal which allows end users to view the health of the network in real time and in historical trends. This also allows network managers to make changes to positively impact an application’s performance. Another core SD-WAN function is to act in real time on the current state of the network links, making decisions on how to best route traffic over the various links.

Complaints about the network holding the business back. We now live in an application performance-based world. The network “does not move” or the internet is not “slow.” Rather the applications users are trying to reach and use are performing poorly based on network conditions. If a customer is actually fighting the network to get anything done, it’s a perfect time to talk SD-WAN. SD-WAN helps geographically-distributed offices better connect, and since SD-WAN is very agile, it allows for a fast turn up of new locations onto the WAN.

How Do I Get Started Providing SD-WAN Services?

If you’ve spotted some points that show a customer is ready for SD-WAN, then get in touch with us at MicroCorp. We have a dedicated, provider-agnostic SD-WAN Solutions Architect who can help you define the best SD-WAN solution for your customers. Our Ultimate Partner Training program focuses on SD-WAN, and we can address all the key points of SD-WAN use from network visibility and control to improving connectivity reliability. So when your customers look like they can benefit, just drop us a line, and we’ll help you get started.

Check out our ultimate guide on selling SD-WAN to learn more about the technology itself, how it integrates and supports other solutions, and how channel partners can take full advantage of it.

How do you build a WAN for your customers that can function today but scale for tomorrow?

How to Build the WAN that Can Take on Tomorrow

How do you build a WAN for your customers that can function today but scale for tomorrow?Building a wide-area network (WAN) isn’t as easy as plugging in a few cables and routers. It’s a safe bet that someone’s asked you about what to consider when building a WAN by now, because you’ve been working hard to establish yourself as an expert. So when your customers start asking you about a WAN, you’ll have an idea ready to go of what to keep in mind, and how you can fill that need.

In years past, the WAN was about connecting sites to other sites and work stations to other sites. As technology delivery models evolve, and cloud and mobility solutions become more widespread, it is more critical than ever to stay connected to those applications, see the health of your connections in real time, and be able to change at the speed of businesses today.

What Should I Keep in Mind When Building a WAN?

Keep these in mind to prevent the need for costly replacements and upgrades as long as possible. Basic design principals include resilient connectivity, visibility into the network, security, flexibility to make changes, and agility to add new sites rapidly.

Basic design. Some parts of the WAN are so basic they should be first off the bat.

  • Discovering new elements. Proper WAN architecture can determine quickly and effectively when new components are added to the network. This helps later in expansion or replacement if something goes wrong.
  • Performance measures. Establish means early on to measure network throughput, bandwidth, and latency. When you’ve done this, you’ll be better able to tell the difference between a network that’s slow because something’s wrong, or a network that’s slow because it wasn’t designed for the level of use it’s seeing. Having tools to analyze this data is critical to ensure optimal performance of applications running over the WAN.

The overall environment. The next point to consider is the overall environment, and how this new network fits into that. Design the network around your environment, not your environment around a clunky inflexible solution.

  • Current use levels. No one wants a network that’s already underpowered when it goes online. Consider your current staffing levels, the existing applications the network will run, and current access requirements to make sure what you’re building will even work with today’s needs.
  • Future use levels. With today’s demands in hand, start immediately looking at tomorrow’s. Look at likely future applications—especially those that are already planned—and immediately planned changes to staffing and use levels. Consider deliberately overbuilding to provide some future wiggle room.

How Do I Get Started Building the Best WAN?

Keeping these points in mind will go a long way toward designing a great WAN, and when it comes to making that design real, start by getting in touch with us at MicroCorp. With a wide range of partnerships across several key areas, we can help take that construction plan and make it a reality. Just drop us a line to get started.

Infographic: SD-WAN In The Year Ahead: Waxing, Waning, and Changes

Like any innovative technology, SD-WAN evolves rapidly. For businesses utilizing SD-WAN or evaluating its implementation, there are a few considerations to keep in mind for the coming year.

Continue reading

Check out our ultimate guide on selling SD-WAN to learn more about the technology itself, how it integrates and supports other solutions, and how channel partners can take full advantage of it.

Bigleaf’s John Hogan talks SD-WAN, Sales, and Advice for Channel Partners

As SD-WAN makes its way around the channel — challenging forecasts for MPLS, sales, and expertise — we reached out to John Hogan, VP of Partner Sales & Business Development for Bigleaf Networks to give us his scoop on SD-WAN as it stands today. We talk sales opportunities, the types of SD-WAN, and advice for partners. Check out the interview below:

Keenan: With all the buzz out there about SD-WAN, what are some of the essential points partners have to have in their arsenal when selling SD-WAN?

Hogan: I know the SD-WAN space can seem daunting and confusing – even for partners that consider themselves to be industry veterans. My best advice for partners looking to become educated on their SD-WAN options is to categorize the different suppliers into a few major categories, and then work with their MicroCorp support team to build a relationship with at least one solid player in each category.

At Bigleaf, we’ll be the first to admit that there really is no single SD-WAN vendor that’s the right fit for every customer. So it’s important to have a few options ready to go based on the customer’s applications and network architecture.

Here are three SD-WAN supplier categories that we tend to keep track of at Bigleaf:

Carrier-based SD-WAN platforms

  • Major focus: SD-WAN as an MPLS enhancement or MPLS replacement
  • Includes a Gateway component for cloud-based traffic

Limitations:

  • Typically replaces firewalls (complex sales process, longer install)
  • Ties your SD-WAN sale to a specific carrier
  • Support experience can be challenging due to broad product set, and the fact that the carrier is re-selling another vendor’s SD-WAN platform

Premise-only solutions (no Gateway component)

  • Major focus: Built mainly for site-to-site connectivity

Limitations:

  • Typically replace firewalls (complex sales process, longer install)
  • Not as strong for cloud-based traffic due to the lack of a Gateway
  • Some require large, upfront equipment purchases

Firewall/Cloud Agnostic (this is Bigleaf’s sweet spot!)

Major focus: Easy self-installation of SD-WAN for cloud-based traffic

Onsite router deploys outside the customer’s firewall (less complicated install)

Cloud Gateway network setup for any cloud-based traffic or site-to-site VPNs

Limitations:

  • Primarily designed for internet connections (not a fit for load-balancing with MPLS or Private-Line circuits)

Keenan: Are there any commonly misunderstood points about SD-WAN partners should be aware of?

Hogan: One of the greatest misunderstood points about SD-WAN is the common belief that SD-WAN is primarily designed as an MPLS enhancement or replacement. These talking points have been driven largely by the major carriers.

Frankly, if you’re a carrier with a large base of MPLS revenue, it’s going to make sense to target SD-WAN technology (and marketing) towards the concept of leveraging SD-WAN intelligence to load-balance existing MPLS networks with broadband to build a hybrid environment for site-to-site connectivity. And that can be a great use of the technology for an enterprise customer with a large IT budget and a long-term need for more traditional, site-to-site architecture.

At Bigleaf, we’re more focused on leveraging SD-WAN technology as a more robust, cost-effective access to cloud applications. We call our technology “Cloud-First SD-WAN”.  We chuckle when we hear people say that SD-WAN is disrupting MPLS. In our view, the cloud disrupted MPLS well before SD-WAN was popular.

For many customers that are migrating applications out to the cloud, their legacy network architecture no longer makes as much sense. Their major connectivity needs have essentially migrated from a hub and spoke model to a remote-site-to-many approach. Efficient access to hosted VoIP, SaaS, AWS or Azure, etc. have become more important than access to an HQ or single data center. Any remaining site-to-site connectivity needs can be addressed with VPNs that will always remain healthy and stable thanks to SD-WAN’s prioritization and seamless failover capabilities.

Clearly, the Bigleaf SD-WAN focus plays out more in the small to mid-sized customer base, and the carrier SD-WAN focus plays out more in the enterprise space.

Keenan: What’s the best way partners can educate themselves about SD-WAN and how to sell it?

Hogan: Like anything in telecom, it really comes down to a combination of learning the key technology, but then also building a good working relationship with a few key suppliers. Good technology is never enough by itself. It’s the combination of technology and good service that makes customers happy.

For MicroCorp partners, I would highly recommend the Ultimate Partner Training Series for an opportunity to do a deep dive on SD-WAN, data center and advanced hosted solutions. Bigleaf has participated in several of these events in the past couple years, and they accomplish both the education component and the vendor relationship component. Or, just schedule a personalized training call with Bigleaf Networks, and at least one vendor from the three major SD-WAN categories noted above.

Lastly, in order to truly understand the capability of SD-WAN, you need to work through a few real-life customer implementations to experience the installation process and hear your customers’ feedback first-hand. All of our order forms have a 30-day money-back guarantee, but we’re also happy to provide a 30-day free trial when needed to allow customers to test our technology risk-free. Use these tools to help close some early wins!

Keenan: How should partners look at MPLS now that SD-WAN is encroaching on its market?

Hogan: With any major technology migration, there are some that will see new technology as a threat. And others that will see opportunity in the evolution. MPLS is not likely to disappear anytime soon. But I think many people agree it will die a slow death over a period of several years. So it’s important to build an SD-WAN strategy moving forward. That strategy can be multi-pronged:

  • Begin working on a proactive migration plan for all of your MPLS customers that will play out for several years. That plan won’t likely mean getting rid of MPLS for all customers. Some cloud-centric customers may certainly replace MPLS with an SD-WAN-enabled internet solution. While others may incorporate more of a hybrid MPLS/broadband approach. Either way, the future of your customers’ WANs are likely to incorporate an SD-WAN component in some degree or fashion in the next few years.
  • Don’t forget about the cloud! One of the greatest benefits of SD-WAN technology is more cost-effective access to cloud applications that is carrier and physically diverse. Every SD-WAN sale is a potential pivot-point into future cloud application sales for that customer. Treat your SD-WAN sales as an excuse to have a conversation with your customer about their current and future application needs — and how those needs can be met through future cloud migrations — and you have a built-in roadmap to a cloud-centric business plan for your company. Every SD-WAN sale results in a purpose-built roadway to the cloud, so help your customers use it!
  • Embrace the “every quote” opportunity with SD-WAN. The market is quickly hitting a breaking point where most businesses can no longer afford to work with a single, dumb internet pipe. With the increasing adoption of cloud-based applications, site-to-site VPNs, SaaS, O365, etc, the internet has become a lifeline to most businesses. So educate customers on SD-WAN as a part of every internet/VoIP/cloud quote that goes out the door. It will increase your ARPU and help combat the eventual decline of MPLS revenue.

Check out our ultimate guide on selling SD-WAN to learn more about the technology itself, how it integrates and supports other solutions, and how channel partners can take full advantage of it.

How to Pick Your SD-WAN Provider

SD-WAN is a software-based approach to managing a WAN, and there are a number of reasons why your customers should consider its adoption. Once the decision to move forward with SD-WAN is made, however, it’s important to properly vet solutions and vendors. Continue reading

Check out our ultimate guide on selling SD-WAN to learn more about the technology itself, how it integrates and supports other solutions, and how channel partners can take full advantage of it.

SD-WAN: Contender or Just a Pretender?

Is SD-WAN the real deal?We are all learning the acronym SD-WAN, but to layer 2 and 3 OSI model aficionados, it can be hard to accept how an upstart layer 7 software application can potentially replace a stalwart layer 3 technology like multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). Which begs the question: Is SD-WAN a contender, or just a pretender in the future generation of networks? 

MPLS: The Incumbent

When MPLS was introduced, medium and large businesses rapidly adopted the technology. Deploying an MPLS network to connect offices together provides users with the ability to have a predictable, secure, and high preforming environment. This is done by bringing all your data through a single provider and allowing them to prioritize your traffic at layer 2 or layer 3 using QoS.  

Providers can provide QoS through specifically designed networks with logical separation using labels to identify traffic, VRFs, and VRF tags to separate the customer traffic. They then allow customers to apply QoS tags to traffic types to reach higher levels of availability.

Let’s look at how this works in more detail, as this is the meat of what customers care about.

When designing MPLS, it is important to determine how you want to provide this QoS. The first thing to do is identify traffic of similar kind and then a degree of excellence. In a typical deployment, 4 quality queues are seen as defined below:

  1. Real-time traffic – This is typically voice, video, and/or VDI.
  2. Business Critical – This includes applications required for a company to do business. Examples might be an EMR for a medical company or credit card transactions for a retail company. 
  3. Business Important – This might be an intranet, active directory, email, or other application that is not sensitive to jitter, latency, or retransmits.
  4. General Traffic – This queue includes all other traffic.

Once customer traffic has been identified and tagged, the degree of excellence of those tagging/groupings must be defined. Most carriers offer a different service level for each queue and different bandwidth guaranteed to each traffic type across the entire MPLS network. As companies continued to converge, however, holes in this design were found. This brought forth the creation of SD-WAN.

SD-WAN: The Contender

Instead of using QoS (layer 2 or layer 3), SD-WAN uses software definitions. With MPLS, you must either use only a source or destination IP address or port. That would be the same as saying you can only relieve traffic congestion from where you started, where you are going, or based on the type of car you have. This would not be very helpful in a major situation where most traffic is destined for the same general area. But what if you could also consider important factors, like ensuring doctors and first responders were never caught in traffic? That one additional factor could change the landscape in most cities and potentially save lives. In terms of the company network, that would be the same as having a real-time queue.

This is what SD-WAN does to QoS. Video traffic can be prioritized to YouTube over Netflix, for example, or Office 365 email over personal Gmail accounts.

Not Beholden to a Single Carrier

With MPLS, the entire environment must be controlled by a single provider. This means that you cannot choose the most cost effective solutions for each location, which doesn’t work for customers with large geographical environments. SD-WAN allows the most cost effective solution per location be chosen. 

Significant Resilience Improvements

With MPLS, providing redundancy is very difficult as MPLS routing uses private IP. For the secondary connection, most customers choose to use a VPN over an internet connection. They then need a device that is intelligent enough to build the VPN and handle routing between the two solutions. Even then, routing with just layer 3 protocols doesn’t allow different levels of resilience or performance increases. Typically, customers settle on having the VPN be active/inactive (or hot/cold), meaning that the other connection is ONLY used when there is a total failure of the MPLS.

 With SD-WAN, the world of high-performing resilient networks comes with a lot of options. You can define and build it so that both connections are used, called active/active or hot/hot. You can prioritize based on application type; for example, real-time traffic can be forced down a high-quality connection with SLAs associated with it, and general web traffic can be sent down a more cost effective connection.  Other business critical or important traffic can be bundled to go out both connections, maximizing total bandwidth.

Conclusion

The flexibility and design options increase exponentially with the introduction of SD-WAN. MPLS still has its place and will for years to come, but for many customers SD-WAN provides a great alternative that may help them meet their internal goals.

Check out our ultimate guide on selling SD-WAN to learn more about the technology itself, how it integrates and supports other solutions, and how channel partners can take full advantage of it.

SD-WAN: Panacea or Pandora?

Get the truth about what SD-WAN can do for your clients.SD-WAN is getting a great deal of air play in the industry right now, promising to solve every network challenge that embattled network architects and operators are experiencing today from insatiable bandwidth requirements and costs through simple network resiliency and management. But what is marketing fluff, and what is real? What are the real drivers behind this latest “transformational” technology, and what problems does it really solve?

More Affordable Network Needed

With increasing workloads and performance requirements, especially with the proliferation of cloud-based applications, the need for predictable, high-speed, secure, and diversified networks is escalating. It simply isn’t always financially feasible to deploy diverse MPLS links to multiple distributed offices.

SD-WAN enables companies to take advantage of less expensive internet access rather than managed private networks while still getting the benefit of the types of capabilities provided by an MPLS network. In many areas, tier one direct internet access actually (and maybe surprisingly) provides lower latency, lower jitter, and lower packet loss than its expensive MPLS counterpart, so companies with a large number of distributed offices can expect to see real cost benefits with an SD-WAN network versus a traditional MPLS network.

Simpler and Faster Deployment

MPLS circuits can take months to provision and turn up. The underlying internet access types that SD-WAN can take advantage of can be faster and easier to deploy. However, don’t be misled by the myth that SD-WAN is simple to deploy.  There is still a substantial amount of planning and configuration to be done. Beware of the “plug and play” misconception and investigate how each solution is deployed, as they are all different.

Management

Not all SD-WAN solutions are as easy to manage as you might think, and not all management portals provide the same functionality. Whether you are looking at a service provider-managed solution, your own “book end” managed solution, or are using a dedicated SD-WAN network provider, look carefully at what priorities you can set and what monitoring you can do. Are these to device level (MAC address) or location level (essentially just network aggregation and optimization solutions)?

And, most importantly, don’t forget about how software updates are applied and managed and how template policies are set and administered — the very things you would think about when managing routers in your network.

Security

There are claims made that MPLS is more secure than SD-WAN. In reality, an MPLS network is only as secure as the accuracy of the MPLS provider’s switching. The use of IPSec connectivity and additional service chaining in an SD-WAN environment should be more than sufficient to address most security concerns.

 

Vendor Maturity

You can’t simply turn to Gartner’s magic quadrant and pick a leader. The industry is too young, with many new market entrants. Whatever deployment method you are going to use, be sure to check the underlying equipment vendor’s track record.  Financial stability and investors are important. Ask for references and don’t forget to look under the hood at the vendor roadmap to understand future solution enhancements such as scalability.

MicroCorp was a pioneer when MPLS came along. We have over 30 years of experience delivering complex network solutions and helping businesses discover the right technology for their operations. Contact us to learn more about a partnership in adding SD-WAN and related technologies to your portfolio of solutions.

Check out our ultimate guide on selling SD-WAN to learn more about the technology itself, how it integrates and supports other solutions, and how channel partners can take full advantage of it.