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SD-WAN demo lab lets partner's clients try before they buy

As the SD-WAN market heats up, MNJ Technologies has launched a demo lab that includes technology from vendors such as Cisco, Fortinet, Oracle and Silver Peak.

MNJ Technologies, a technology services provider based in the Chicago area, has launched an SD-WAN demo lab that lets customers prove out different use cases before committing to a deployment.

The service arrives amid a period of high growth in the software-defined WAN market. Earlier this year, IDC forecast a 30.8% compound annual growth rate for SD-WAN infrastructure through 2023, when the market research firm expects the sector to reach $5.25 billion.

"SD-WAN is a huge market space and a huge opportunity right now," said Ben Niernberg, senior vice president of sales and services at MNJ Technologies.

The SD-WAN demo lab opened about a month ago in MNJ Technologies' main facility in Buffalo Grove, Ill. The lab currently houses SD-WAN gear from Cisco (Meraki and Viptela brands), Fortinet Inc., Oracle and Silver Peak. MNJ Technologies is in the process of onboarding Cloudgenix equipment, Niernberg noted.

MNJ Technologies is not alone among service providers in building an SD-WAN testbed. For example, World Wide Technology, a technology solution provider based in St. Louis, operates an on-demand SD-WAN lab. Managed SD-WAN services have become more popular offerings among channel partners.

Emulating customer environments

MNJ Technologies' lab aims to identify the most suitable SD-WAN option for a customer's traffic priority requirements and growth initiatives, according to the company.

Ben Niernberg, senior vice president of sales and services, MNJ Technologies Ben Niernberg

"Each SD-WAN provider has a unique set of capabilities and works better in certain areas," Niernberg said. Oracle's SD-WAN offering, for example, "does an amazing job in environments where voice is mission-critical," he explained.

MNJ Technologies' SD-WAN demo lab employs a third-party WAN emulation tool that recreates a customer's environment.

"One of the things we were seeing is customers wanted to see [SD-WAN technology] in action," Niernberg said. "We can emulate the WAN of the customer and demonstrate each of the SD-WAN providers and see what happens when a call or packet gets dropped."

For customers, the SD-WAN demo lab, which is offered free of charge, cuts down on the need for a proof-of-concept trial and speeds up the customer's "time to solution," Niernberg said. Overall, the ability to view a head-to-head, real-time comparison of products increases the customer's comfort level with the technology, he added.

Close to the edge

Each SD-WAN provider has a unique set of capabilities and works better in certain areas.
Ben Niernberg Senior vice president of sales and services, MNJ Technologies

MNJ Technologies' tech-agnostic approach to SD-WAN also applies to circuitry. The company operates as a competitive local exchange carrier, selling various types of circuits on a wholesale basis. The company's approach is to combine its circuit business with its SD-WAN offerings.

"We are a company focused on the edge. SD-WAN and circuits is where we spend a lot of our time," Niernberg said.

MNJ Technologies' SD-WAN business is up about 40% year over year, he said, noting customers no longer have to be sold on the technology's value proposition. The customers' emphasis has shifted from early-adopter concerns to finding the SD-WAN offering that best fits their needs, he added.

"They know what it can do," Niernberg said of SD-WAN.

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