Understanding How MSSPs Can Add Value to SD-WAN

By Fortinet | January 08, 2020

This is a summary of an article written for Channel Futures by Fortinet’s Senior Director, MSSPs, Stephan Tallent. The entire article can be accessed here.

As businesses continue to adopt new web applications and cloud services, many are upgrading their WAN infrastructure to SD-WAN. This is largely due to the fact that traditional WANs were not built for the cloud, a technology which plays a critical role across today’s digital businesses. Instead, branch offices, school campuses, and remote retail locations are typically connected to a singular data center hub using static MPLS routing or an IPSec network protocol suite connection.

By switching to SD-WAN, organizations of all sizes can not only extend the value of digital transformation to their remote offices but also compete more effectively in today’s digital marketplace. This is illustrated by the fact that SD-WAN transformation is expected to become a $4.5 billion market opportunity between now and 2021, according to IDC.

How MSSPs Can Benefit from SD-WAN Market Growth

The growth of this market has presented new opportunities for managed security service providers (MSSPs) to offer managed WAN services both on and off their network. As a great deal of value of any SD-WAN solution lies in the services that are attached to it, this technology can be considered an enabler and facilitator for supplementary services.

When choosing SD-WAN services, top priorities generally center on agility and efficient WAN resource utilization, application reliability, and user experience being delivered – cost reduction is typically a secondary consideration. Overall, this technology is an evolution of the traditional WAN that aligns with organizations’ digital transformation efforts and includes increasing reliance on real-time applications and cloud-hosted resources.

During the process of selecting an SD-WAN solution, many MSSPs look for one they want to wrap their services around, despite the fact that most provide similar connectivity capabilities. With this in mind, it should be noted that delivering connectivity-only SD-WAN services is not sustainable in the long term – in fact, this sense of prioritization can actually increase risk and exposure to the enterprise. In order to reduce this risk without impacting connectivity, MSSPs should differentiate their SD-WAN services through the inclusion of other features, such as security.

“In short, SD-WAN shouldn’t be the objective. SD-WAN should be the means to deliver an entire value-added services engine that increases revenue per user along with sustained customer loyalty.”

Stephan Tallent, How SD-WAN Presents a Huge Opportunity for MSSPs, Channel Futures

Building Out SD-WAN with High-Value Services

In order to expand revenue opportunities and increase their competitive edge in a busy market, MSSPs should go beyond simply building and delivering an SD-WAN solution by adding valuable services – these include advanced security, networking, and application management. Therefore, when choosing an SD-WAN vendor, MSSPs need to consider this platform’s ability to deliver these additional integrated and automated services. MSSPs should also consider the following:

  • What value-added services are already included with this SD-WAN solution?
  • Is the solution able to support third-party services through APIs or open standards?
  • Are there time-to-market and onboarding complexities?
  • Are centralized automation, management, and reporting available, specifically for large installments?

Prioritizing Security as an SD-WAN Service

With a focus on connectivity, most SD-WAN solutions are built with only a minimal level of security in mind. While this may seem like a good opportunity to build in a security service, the complexities associated with installing and managing security with the purpose of acting as a complete overlay solution can have serious repercussions on the bottom line and average revenue per user.

Because of these complexities, deploying an SD-WAN solution that integrates a proven next-generation firewall becomes a critical requirement to immediately establish a value-added service. A pre-integrated security service helps to address concerns around onboarding and time to market, while enabling additional opportunities around security, such as monitoring and ongoing optimization services.

Creating Opportunities Beyond SD-WAN

At the end of the day, SD-WAN is a sophisticated connectivity service that has become the ideal channel for delivering additional services and support across the cloud or data center. By adding access control to local switches and wireless access points, in conjunction with Network Access Control, SD-WAN is able to drive security services deep into the remote network. In turn, this can lead to another commercially viable service opportunity – SD-Branch.

Through the deployment of an SD-Branch solution, MSSPs can provide SD-WAN, NGFW security, and end-user device security to a range of remote locations, including branch offices, remote retail locations, and school satellite campuses. These value-added services – hosted and managed by the MSSP – can be critical for customers as they enable visibility and control over their branch environments from a single point of visibility, management, and reporting.

Final Thoughts

By viewing SD-WAN as a value-added services platform, as opposed to just another service offering, MSSPs can not only open the door to significant benefits for their customers but also expand their own revenue opportunities. As MSSPs look to deploy SD-WAN for their customers, they must plan ahead to ensure they are getting the most value and will eventually be able to extend beyond this platform into the SD-Branch itself.

Take a security-driven approach to networking to improve user experience and simplify operations at the WAN edge with Fortinet’s Secure SD-WAN Solution

Read these customer case studies to see how Warrior Invictus Holding Co., Inc. and the District School Board of Niagara implemented Fortinet’s Secure SD-WAN to alleviate network complexity, increase bandwidth, and reduce security costs.  

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