This past year has been like no one other, and I’m not talking about the pandemic! We have seen infrastructure breakdowns, denial-of-service-attacks, and sites being unavailable due to the traffic load. As a result, CIOs and technology leaders have learned from these crises to prioritize technical transformation for resilience. These leaders feel the urgency to ensure that the network infrastructure is well prepared to take any unpredictable turn, no matter what comes next. That’s where SD-WAN managed services come in.
SD-WAN is not a new concept. Since its early inception, many organizations have undergone a network transformation on their own, redesigning their infrastructure with SD-WAN solutions. For others, the complexity of deploying, managing, and securing critical network infrastructure is too much to undertake. They turn to Managed Service Providers (MSPs). According to Gartner, “SD-WAN deployments are expected to grow 18% annually through 2024, with the majority via managed services. By 2024, managed SD-WAN adoption is estimated to reach at least 60% of the enterprise locations.”
Are MSPs well equipped to undertake this task? While the addition of SD-WAN services in the managed services portfolio represents an excellent potential for MSPs, choosing the wrong SD-WAN solution can be detrimental to their overall business.
Solutions Galore, But Many Lack What Service Providers Need
The SD-WAN market is relatively fragmented. Most legacy SD-WAN solutions were never designed for the realities of a managed services environment. Using legacy SD-WANs can negatively impact the initial phase of any customer deployment with high costs, complexity, and time to market. If you add the increased ongoing management overhead post-deployment, the overall business’s repercussions can be significant.
What are the red flags of legacy SD-WAN solutions?
- Poor visibility and control - Legacy SD-WAN solutions are built using Layer 3 packet-based policies, with limited application-defined networking policies and application visibility. As a result, network teams cannot deliver application SLAs.
- Complex, manual operations - Legacy SD-WAN solutions require manual interventions, especially for “day 2” operations, creating substantial administrative overhead and negatively impacting operational efficiency. They are also limited in a multitenant environment, don’t scale well, and don’t easily integrate with third-party solutions.
- Lack of integrated security capabilities - Delivering security requires additional next-generation firewall capabilities, which adds extra capital and operational costs. Non-fully integrated security services often place customers at a higher risk, resulting in increased liability and management overhead.
Three Values to Look For
The three values to look for in an SD-WAN solution for MSPs are:
- Application-defined - The solution needs deep application visibility with Layer 7 intelligence for network policy creation and traffic engineering. Only then can MSP network teams deliver SLAs for all apps, including cloud, Software as a Service (SaaS), and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) to ensure exceptional user experience. Consequently, MSPs can offer an app-centric view of the business and align customer’s networks to the business outcomes.
- Autonomous - The solution should automate operations and problem avoidance by using machine learning (ML) and data science methodologies. With an ML-powered and autonomous SD-WAN solution, MSPs benefit from simplified network operations and can reduce network trouble tickets to manage across multiple customers. The solution should also enable DevOps approaches for one-click deployment by leveraging APIs to simplify network operations. As a result, MSPs can rapidly onboard new customers, reduce the time to market with new services, and the impact on customer’s business operations is minimal.
- Cloud-delivered - The solution should enable the delivery of various managed services, including security, collaboration, multi-cloud and more, without the need for additional hardware or software truck rolls. By providing a cloud-delivered service, MSPs take advantage of cloud-scale economics, with innate cross-service integration, easy consumption, and lower operational costs. Additionally, the solution should include integration points based on published APIs. Only then can MSPs easily integrate with their systems and third-party solutions, and customers can consume new features almost instantly.
MSPs need a next-generation SD-WAN solution that offers increased agility and flexibility through the seamless delivery of best-of-breed network and security services from the cloud. This solution should also be an integral part of a secure access service edge (SASE) platform to allow for a continuous transformation. A SASE platform helps reduce the upfront cost and the critical back-end overhead with deep visibility and control, easy automated management intelligence and insights, and most importantly, embedded security.
Only with a complete SASE solution can MSPs guarantee their customers security and application-based SLAs, best-of-breed networking and security, and the power of data science-based automation of IT operations.
The MSP Opportunity with a Next-Generation SD-WAN
Across every vertical and business, the market opportunity to deliver rich network services to organizations is high. Choosing a next-generation SD-WAN solution, like Palo Alto Networks Prisma SD-WAN, enables MSPs to offer more than just agile service connectivity. It also allows them to rapidly add revenue-generating services and achieve cost savings compared to legacy solutions, while still providing an optimal end-user experience.
Learn how Palo Alto Networks Prisma SD-WAN can help drive new markets and boost your network services revenue.
This post is part of the MSSP partners series.