Why are some of the best technical solutions lagging behind in SD WAN market share?

Gail Smith, Cavell Group’s SD-WAN Practice & Training Director answers:

“If you ask our engineers about the best SD WAN platforms – they will point to players that are currently lumped in the others category in market share reports (have less than 5%).  These players have ‘carrier grade’ solutions well suited for the demanding requirements of large enterprises.

Graph Source IHS Markit – Global SD WAN market Share

At a simple level the reason they are behind the curve on market share, is because they are selling to Tier 1 carriers and that is always a long sales cycle.  However, there is a more dangerous explanation as well  — that the suppliers have not mastered selling VIA the Services Providers to the enterprises.

In the past if you had strong Service Provider solutions, you sold to the engineering teams.  Once selected the Service Provider pre-deployed significant amounts of infra-structure prior to any customer revenue.  So the vendor had a base of early revenue whether the service was successful or not.

In today’s software subscription based world, the vendor is not successful until the Service Provider is successful.  Selling to SPs looks increasing like channel enablement – and the vendor must be prepared to spend significant time and resources enabling the channel both commercially (Service Creation and Positioning, Marketing and Sales Playbooks, Sales support training) and technically (pre-sales support, migration/transformation managers, post sale implementation, large scale certification programs).

This is the game that vendors from the Enterprise world know well, and Cisco is a master at supporting the channel.  In the hosted comm’s market which is subscription based, new vendors like Broadsoft realized early that they must focus on the Service Provider’s go to market success with a series of enablement programs.  They also moved to a mid market emphasis rather than competing head on with Cisco in large enterprise.   The question now is whether the new SD WAN players with the best technical minds will invest enough to become the best at channel enablement and take on Cisco and its channels to dominate the large enterprise segment.”