The enterprise SD-WAN market is thriving with big-name competitors, but what of the small-to-midsized business (SMB) sector? That’s where Netsurion has staked its claim, injecting itself confidently into a market segment that’s eager to see how a cloud-based network-security managed solution might help streamline their digitally transformed business. The company’s all-in-one BranchSDO solution enables managed service providers (MSPs) to securely manage small-office, SMB branch, and highly distributed organizations — with a strong focus on agility and flexibility.
We spoke to two members of the Netsurion team — John Ayers, VP of product management, and Aaron Branson, VP of marketing — to get a sense of how they see the market, what is unique about the Netsurion platform, and what excites them about the future.
SDxCentral: Earlier this year, Netsurion announced the launch of its BranchSDO, a comprehensive and secure SD-WAN connectivity solution for multi-location businesses of all sizes. Tell me about BranchSDO and the problems it’s working to solve.
Ayers: SD-WAN isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution up and down the network stack. At Netsurion, we’re tackling these four aspects of the SD-WAN approach:
- Resiliency — When you think of a company’s need to maintain broadband connectivity, you’re talking about “three 9s” of connectivity, and then when you add cellular, you’re at “four 9s.” We take resiliency very seriously when it comes to helping our customers maintain that level of connectivity.
- Agility and simplicity — The whole notion behind our BranchSDO solution is helping customers become more agile: We want them to leverage the cloud and take advantage of the cloud-management capabilities that are available today. The Orchestrator within BranchSDO is a centralized command and control service that not only lets you manage your network but also lets you configure your network on the fly. Customers can rapidly deploy a box and get a site turned up in under 15 minutes — in a highly distributed environment.
- Security — Security is in our DNA. As part of our 15-year heritage as a managed security service provider, we’ve learned a lot about delivering secure services to our customers, and part of our competitive advantage is that we’ve built those security lessons straight into our SD-WAN platform.
- Compliance — Maintaining PCI DSS compliance is essential. Bringing all these things together lets us deliver a solution that really fits that SMB branch/IoT market, in-vehicle situations, and so on. For example, you can go to a restaurant, walk up to a kiosk, place your order, and the next thing you know someone is calling your name. We’ve become a solution that really hits multiple key points in the SD-WAN market, including securing credit card data at rest an in motion. One size does not fit all!
Branson: I’d echo John’s point: Just because it’s SD-WAN doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for every organization. We carefully designed our solution for the SMB branch and those unstaffed IoT environments. What those types of environments really need is simplicity and efficiency. As much as we could, we wanted to deliver a “branch network in a box,” also known as SD-Branch. On top of the SD-WAN, we’re bundling in network management orchestration, network security, and services that these use cases routinely need, such as guest WiFi, cellular failover, PCI DSS compliance and support — everything to make their lives easier.
SDxCentral: BranchSDO brings together security and networking solutions with managed service. Why is this convergence of solutions and managed services so important?
Ayers: The reality today is that the cloud is requiring everyone to converge. But it’s important to bring the right technologies together as part of that convergence. One of the things that Netsurion has done extremely well is to bring together a purpose-built solution consisting of our own intellectual property. Our strength is focusing on the right product and the right managed solution to make things more efficient, more secure, and more manageable for the customer — hence, the BranchSDO Orchestrator becoming a single pane of glass to allow that convergence to take place.
I’ll give you an example: One of our strengths is the ability to service-chain. In the coming months, we’ll offer a cloud-network-based security solution able to converge, or service-chain, our EventTracker security information and event management system, to give customers a clear view of what’s taking place on their wire.
Branson: If you look at the state of cybersecurity today, it’s so complex and fragmented. The last statistic I looked at, there are more than a thousand cybersecurity solutions out there. Think about how impractical that is for an SMB to try to cobble together a security and network management solution with all these pieces to choose from, and having overlaps and gaps, to decipher the right mashup of these technologies, and then not have the managed service to operationalize it.
SDxCentral: Designing with cybersecurity in mind is one of Netsurion’s core tenets. Why is it so important that security is directly integrated into branch solutions?
Branson: By nature, branches are more inclined to be vulnerable. They probably don’t have onsite IT staff, they’re more likely to have inconsistent network configurations from one site to the next, and you’re probably talking about dozens, hundreds or thousands of locations to manage — all of which are more likely to be targeted due to these soft spots. That’s a key reason why we’ve put security at the core of our solution.
Ayers: To be frank, many existing solutions simply don’t do a good job of sharing information, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to converge things that we feel make things easier and provide more visibility. We started in this business as a security company, and we took a lot of what we learned and built BranchSDO based on that.
The result was so powerful that we started delivering the solution to our MSP and VAR partners because they’re all having the same struggles. We’re not offering a silver bullet, but what we do have is the ability to provide that visibility. Combine that with our BranchSDO solution, our EventTracker solution, and the ability to service-chain a cloud-based next-generation firewall solution and it becomes a cohesive, powerful story. We want to make security simpler and yet focus on the inside-out rather than outside-in aspect of how to secure an environment.
SDxCentral: What makes Netsurion’s approach to managed services for the branch unique?
Ayers: Two key words: Agile yet versatile. That’s an important aspect of the managed services market today — you have to be agile to become versatile. The issue today with managed services is that too often it’s about shoving a square peg into a round hole.
The big challenge you have for MSPs today is how to effectively bundle or consolidate services. But at the end of the day, in today’s networking and security world, you can’t go at it alone, you have to have the right partner to do it. We want to enable MSPs to be a lot more efficient with customers and deliver the ability to not only make money but deliver the right customer experience as it relates to managed services.
Branson: You nailed it, John. That’s something unique that Netsurion has put at the forefront. Ultimately, Netsurion is a managed security solution provider, but we’re also flexible enough to play nice with others — so much so that we’re happy to enable other MSPs to be that front-line service provider to the end customer, and we can provide support from behind the scenes. In many cases, one MSP offering a wider breadth of services rather than multiple vendors can bring greater efficiency and better results for that SMB customer.
SDxCentral: Looking forward to the future of the SD-Branch, what are you most excited about?
Ayers: So many things! The biggest one that I’m most excited about in talking with customers is the service-chaining aspect. What I mean by that is the ability to bring products together as a seamless solution. It’s a powerful story, to deliver to our customers the right security solution from the edge to the endpoint to the cloud.
We hear about competitors beating the drum about cloud-based firewall, but we’ve been delivering that. What those vendors fail to provide is visibility of what’s on the wire and what to do about it. With our EventTracker SIEM convergence and service-chaining, that’s cause for great excitement.
Another thing I’m excited about is a solution we call Cloud Connect, which allows us to deliver our cloud connectivity solution within the Amazon or Azure environment, and we’ll have the ability to create a seamless VPN environment with the cloud so people have the secure cloud-connect capability versus this monstrous problem of trying to figure out how to tunnel here or there.
Branson: What I’d add is this: You have the network administration world, you have the information security people, but what’s falling through the cracks as digital transformation has exploded and become commonplace? As technologies proliferate and we become more reliant on them, it is more and more critical that this convergence be a reality today.
Netsurion is bringing together BranchSDO on one side and EventTracker on the other, and you’re going to start seeing the blending of the two into a single, seamless experience. Most environments have their security tools and vendors, and network management tools and providers, and they operate in silos. That’s problematic. Netsurion’s advantage is that we can bring both of those today as one partner for our customers and MSPs, and in the future things will be even more unified.