Why Enterprises partner with MSPs for SD-WAN
SD-WAN has stormed its way across corporate networks in only a few short years. Going into 2022, about 45% of MNCs now have significant deployments of SD-WAN, going beyond pilots and starter installations.
An impressive 12% of MNCs now have SD-WAN deployed across the majority of their sites. SD-WAN is continuing to expand briskly, finding new adopters, and expanding inside enterprises where the technology has established a foothold. Pilots are folding into deployments; small deployments are growing into larger ones.
Complicating matters is that between upgrades and new purchases, many enterprises are already hosting multiple SD-WAN platforms and vendors. Omdia found MNCs maintained nearly four platforms on average, mostly from 15 options from 10 vendors. Prominent among them: Cisco, VMware, Fortinet, Palo Alto Networks, and HPE.
MNC IT administrators take many different approaches, and sometimes several simultaneous approaches, to operate different SD-WAN platforms. Frequently, whether through mergers and acquisitions or different buying/partner decisions at different times, businesses have multiple SD-WAN vendors and operate them in some integrated fashion. Also frequently, platforms have different network roles. Each may play a different network role, divided by geography or by the types of offices they serve. Less common are divisions by network function (for example, Meraki for WiFi, another vendor for security and/or WAN optimization), or divided by business units (for example, inherited through a merger or acquisition). Sometimes enterprises keep several platforms in-house just for extended testing and evaluation.
Omdia has found in its research that virtually all enterprises that deploy SD-WAN turn to some outside assistance during implementation. One of the biggest differences an enterprise can make is to engage with a partner service provider before starting any SD-WAN deployment. An external partner can assess the present network, match the best SD-WAN platform(s) to the requirement, design and/or validate a new network configuration, and help deploy and set up the new platform. Enterprise SD-WAN deployment customer satisfaction (on a scale of 1-10) jumps by 0.6 points on average if an enterprise works with an outside partner in the initial stages of the deployment. More importantly, the chance of bad SD-WAN outcomes that lead to possible remedial action drops by more than half, from 10% of deployments for those that choose to DIY their network design and deployment, to just 4% when enterprises bring in an assessment, design, and deployment partner.
The big outstanding question is: what party is the best possible professional services/managed services partner to help an enterprise with an SD-WAN deployment? The answer depends on what decisions the enterprise will not change, and which are open for review. If the enterprise insists SD-WAN migration must support one platform or network or project, certain types of partners are best suited. If all options are still on the table, an enterprise might consider a managed services partner that has SD-WAN platforms, enterprise networks, and professional services expertise. Below are some of the factors to consider about the perspectives of different types of partners.
There are two more points to SD-WAN partner selection. First, the lead SD-WAN partner should offer a full spectrum professional and managed network services. A lead partner is an insurance policy. If there are issues, the enterprise turns to its lead partner for support and expertise. That might happen during equipment procurement and deployment; reconfiguring or redesigning the network, if a new design is not delivering against plan; or for monitoring, troubleshooting, and resolving unexpected issues with SD-WAN or the underlying network.
Second, the enterprise’s lead partner should stay active in the day-to-day of network operations over a long-term managed services contract. This would keep the relationship alive and include options to bring the lead partner back to lend a hand when circumstances change. A company merger or acquisition, changing SD-WAN platform requirements over time, constantly evolving security concerns, and new or upgraded enterprise applications are some factors that change the complexity and the behavior of the network in unexpected ways.
Based on Omdia’s enterprise IT executive interviews, SD-WAN migration is frequently harder than businesses first expect. Applications, platforms, and network are all interdependent; SD-WAN becomes one piece of a larger network transformation. Partner managed network services providers can help to choose platforms and assemble networks that meet the requirement. They can help configure for the network underlay and applications overlay and provide ongoing support. An expert partner in network migration can ease the migration to SD-WAN, minimizing risk while helping enterprises realize the many benefits of a new platform.
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