How NFV Can Re­vi­tal­ize the VAR Busi­ness Model

Up un­til now, NFV adop­tion mostly was driven by ma­jor tel­cos

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Net­work func­tions vir­tu­al­iza­tion (NFV) is show­ing signs of healthy growth. A re­port from ABI Re­search fore­casts that the global NFV mar­ket will be worth $38 bil­lion by 2022. Sales of hard­ware - such as servers, switches and stor­age de­vices will grad­u­ally de­crease; soft­ware will grow at a rate of 55 per­cent.

Up un­til now, NFV adop­tion was mostly driven by ma­jor tel­cos. Al­though up­take by en­ter­prises has been slower, this is start­ing to change as cus­tomer IT teams rec­og­nize the busi­ness and op­er­a­tional ben­e­fits that NFV can of­fer.

This also means good things for the chan­nel as partners be­gin to add NFV and NFV-like of­fer­ings. In the past, VARs tended to sell net­work­ing and se­cu­rity so­lu­tions like ADCs, NGFWs and WAFs as hard­ware-based, sin­gle-func­tion ap­pli­ances. This op­tion of­fers the best pos­si­ble per­for­mance and through­put, but it lacks agility and the abil­ity to scale as needed to sup­port busi­ness growth. Vir­tu­al­ized ver­sions of net­work­ing and se­cu­rity prod­ucts are avail­able too; how­ever, while they of­fer im­prove­ment in agility and scal­a­bil­ity, be­cause they typ­i­cally run on com­mer­cial, off-the-shelf hard­ware, their per­for­mance is much lower than re­spec­tive phys­i­cal ap­pli­ance coun­ter­parts.

En­ter NFV. Net­work func­tions vir­tu­al­iza­tion ad­dresses the per­for­mance, agility, scal­a­bil­ity and ro­bust­ness short­falls of the pre­vi­ously men­tioned op­tions; how­ever, it hasn’t re­ceived the at­ten­tion it de­serves in the en­ter­prise, which also has an im­pact on the chan­nel. This is mostly due to IT lead­ers’ con­cerns about or­ga­ni­za­tional dis­rup­tion, po­ten­tial skills deficits and frankly, partners’ in­abil­ity to clearly de­fine ROI.

To help push adop­tion for­ward once and for all and pro­vide new op­por­tu­ni­ties in the chan­nel, there is a new class of NFV-like prod­ucts, com­pris­ing NFV plat­forms or vir­tu­al­ized/multi-ten­ant ap­pli­ances. This op­tion has the po­ten­tial to help en­ter­prises ad­dress their main con­cerns with NFVadop­tion and ame­lio­rate some draw­backs of both ded­i­cated and vir­tual ap­pli­ances run­ning on com­mod­ity hard­ware.

NFV plat­forms au­to­mate the com­plex con­fig­u­ra­tions re­quired by NFV so that any part­ner or IT team - be they net­work­ing, server or vir­tu­al­iza­tion fo­cused - can de­ploy net­work­ing and se­cu­rity func­tions with lit­tle train­ing needed. With a sim­pli­fied in­ter­face, it also sim­pli­fies the cre­ation of ser­vice-chain­ing, for ex­am­ple, one or more ADC in­stances of load-balanc­ing traf­fic across mul­ti­ple WAF or NGFW in­stances. Per­for­mance is guar­an­teed through ded­i­cated re­sources (mem­ory, I/O, SSL and com­pute) for each in­stance/func­tion/vir­tual ap­pli­ance, and the “hy­per­vi­sor tax” is min­i­mized by pro­vid­ing sep­a­rate re­sources for hy­per­vi­sor over­head.

In ad­di­tion, by fo­cus­ing on a nar­rower use case - net­work­ing and se­cu­rity func­tions cen­tral to sup­port­ing the per­for­mance of busi­ness-crit­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tions - the ROI and TCO of NFV be­come much eas­ier to cal­cu­late.

NFV plat­forms, whether open or pro­pri­etary, could be the first step in achiev­ing wide­spread en­ter­prise adop­tion. They’re sure to be an im­por­tant step­ping stone for VARs to pave the way for wider NFV de­ploy­ments. And, NFV plat­forms can be used in the chan­nel by partners to sell to their cus­tomers, but also to use in­ter­nally if they are evolv­ing to of­fer hosted net­work­ing ser­vices.

Other ben­e­fits in­clude ag­ile, on-de­mand pro­vi­sion­ing of ser­vices, quick repurposing of re­sources to sup­port new or chang­ing cus­tomer re­quire­ments, eas­ier re­mote man­age­ment, re­duc­tions in space, power and cool­ing costs, and sup­port for SLAs in mul­ti­tenant en­vi­ron­ments.

Based on th­ese ben­e­fits and oth­ers, we can ex­pect to see a mix of the chan­nel sell­ing and host­ing ser­vices.

Some open plat­forms are ven­dor-neu­tral, so VARs af­fil­i­ated with al­most any net­work­ing, se­cu­rity or ap­pli­ca­tion de­liv­ery provider can ben­e­fit from the ad­van­tages high­lighted above. Keep an eye on plugfests, like those held by ETSI, for the lat­est on in­ter­op­er­abil­ity.

Cus­tomers can stick with the best-of-breed ven­dors they trust, and partners can build so­lu­tions around the ven­dors al­ready on their line card. It’s a win-win.

Partners agree on NFV as a vi­able solution - Chan­nel Partners re­cently ran its own mini sur­vey and asked its au­di­ence, “What’s the next big ‘soft­ware-de­fined’ sales op­por­tu­nity?” By a wide mar­gin, the sur­vey re­spon­dents chose “NFV to re­place hard­ware fire­walls, load bal­ancers and edge de­vices.” As we jump into a new cal­en­dar year, the chan­nel should con­sider NFV and NFV-like so­lu­tions such as NFV plat­forms for new rev­enue op­por­tu­ni­ties and cus­tomer re­ten­tion.

By PAUL AN­DER­SEN, Vice Pres­i­dent of Sales North Amer­ica at Ar­ray Net­works .

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