Q&A with Steve Evans, senior vice president of solutions engineering, Teneo

21 March 2019 | Sponsored

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Steve Evans, senior vice president of solutions engineering at Teneo, speaks to Capacity about challenges currently facing the enterprise market and how Teneo is rising up to meet them.

Tell us a bit about Teneo – your history and offering?

We specialise in finding and bringing to market new technologies in the areas of networking and security, which we deliver as services to our global customers, so they can achieve early tech adoption while minimising risk and CAPEX spend. The ultimate result is quicker digital transformation.

For example, we were very early to market with WAN optimisation over 15 years ago and started working with our first SD-WAN partner 8 years ago. We offer both as managed services. We’re also working with some exciting new technology in the threat hunting world as well as Wi-Fi performance management.

What challenges are enterprises currently experiencing and how does Teneo’s solutions tackle these?

There’s a fast-paced race happening out there among businesses to achieve competitive advantage through technology, regardless of industry sector. Everyone is talking about IoT, AI and automation, but there’s still a very human element that requires focus which is end users’ experience.

Nobody today has time to wait for a device, application or network to respond. Reputations are at stake in the minds of customers, partners and employees based on service response times and availability, and businesses want better rates of productivity.

Having said that, delivering a consistently excellent experience to users requires a whole, often geographically dispersed, orchestra of people and technology to play in sync in the most efficient, secure and cost-effective way.

Our consultancy and services specifically concentrate on improving performance, visibility and security from click, wherever users are located, to disk, which could be physical, virtual or in the cloud.

Since we work with next-gen technology, many of our customers’ own internal teams haven’t had the chance to develop skillsets or experience around those just yet, so they rely on our specialism in areas like SD-WAN and end user experience monitoring where Teneo’s skilled, experienced people can design and deliver such projects on our customers’ behalf.

How do your specialised SD-WAN services differ and stand out from the crowd in a growing and evolving enterprise market?

We approach SD-WAN with the end user in mind, in the way we design the solution and measure the impact on user experience before and after migration. This ensures that such transformational change is worthwhile to the business. There’s no point in completely re-architecting your network if user experience is going to be worse than before you started.

We also draw on our experience in security and visibility to make sure all SD-WAN angles are considered, and internal stakeholders are consulted. SD-WAN touches on so many areas of the business and IT department. Often customers are still discovering use-cases after deployment, but it certainly helps the design process to have as many of these defined upfront.

Our customers value exactly this kind of advice and the education we’re able to provide them about the SD-WAN landscape, given we work with 5 different SD-WAN technologies, and real deployment scenarios based on our years of experience. The above themes and more are covered in our SD-WAN Workshop, which we typically carry out at a customer site before we begin the high-level design stage.

We also find that customers rely heavily on us for global deployment, which is a combination of getting equipment to site, on time, through our logistics expertise, and having the right skills on site to intercept the equipment and make sure it’s deployed correctly according to the design. We have offices in the USA, UK, France and Australia and a network of international partners to complement our own skillsets and presence, so we can act in an agile, flexible way to meet customer needs quickly. We find that’s a huge differentiator compared to some of the larger service providers, who our customers report can be slow to act.   

What are the key monitoring and performance capabilities of SD-WAN?

SD-WAN certainly should provide teams with an attractive and simple to use interface that lets them base traffic rules on business priorities, and then automate the implementation of those rules across the entire network. And when something goes wrong with the performance of an application, good SD-WAN solutions will provide visibility into what exactly caused the issue, whether it’s an underlay issue such as dropped packets, a problem with QoS, or an issue with the prioritisation over-all.

But it’s important to note that you aren’t going to switch out your regular network to an SD-WAN overnight, and you may not choose to deploy SD-WAN technology to all sites. That means you only have visibility into the features your SD-WAN technology provides, and monitoring and visibility will be limited to the sites with SD-WAN deployment.

You’re therefore going to need more complete, end-to-end monitoring and visibility that stretches from the end user perspective to the cloud, including APM and NPM. Teneo’s Visibility as a Service provides this and is based on Riverbed’s SteelCentral technology.

What are the benefits of your end-user experience monitoring services?

The main benefit our customers report from our end user experience monitoring service is being able to have eyes into users’ experience of critical apps, from their perspective.

Businesses are spending millions of dollars on technology that connects employees together across offices, but as I’ve alluded, most haven’t yet discovered how to provide a clean and efficient end user experience for those employees to conduct business. Our service is based on Riverbed SteelCentral Aternity, which provides insight into what users are experiencing on the desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile device at every moment. So, from the second an employee powers up their computer in the morning, we can monitor every single action that happens across an organisation, for example how long it takes to open and login to an application. If there’s any delay whatsoever, our customers can begin to address the issue before their users pick up the phone to call the helpdesk. We offer this as-a-service’, with no minimum number of users, so customers can pay monthly as their needs expand. Of course, engaging the service for all users maximises visibility and statistical analysis of how every application is performing, across all locations and hardware types, and where there are commonalities in poor performance. For example, we provide regular trend reporting that helps customers make informed decisions about where to upgrade hardware next. Customers are using this as part of significant network or application changes like implementation of SD-WAN, O365, Windows 10, desktop refreshes, and Cloud migration.

Enterprises are adopting SD-WAN to improve network performance and reliability. In terms of trends and uptake, what is Teneo seeing in the marketplace today?

Pretty much any business that has a WAN has SD-WAN somewhere on their radar. We have seen some early adopters move to being fully deployed within the last couple of years, but most deployments have not been without a hitch of some sort, because of the complexities of what SD-WAN migration involves. That’s caused others to carry out extra thorough research and listen to case studies to learn from others’ experiences before taking the plunge themselves. Those are the customers seeing value in our SD-WAN workshop.

We’ve also seen the market begin to converge within the last year. There’s been consolidation in SD-WAN vendors through acquisition yes, but we’re seeing the boundaries blur between vendors that have a play at the WAN edge, for example those known more traditionally as firewall vendors now all have an SD-WAN play, making SD-WAN a firm part of any security conversation.   

Looking at next-generation technologies, how will cloud monitoring, blockchain, and end-to-end SLAs on internet service evolve?

Carrier SLAs are already being exposed through the reporting included in some SD-WAN technologies, which is highlighted even further when paired with additional network monitoring solutions which extend out to the Cloud.

I think a lot of organisations are still at experimental stage with blockchain. The financial services industry appears to be most advanced, but I can certainly see very relevant use-cases in other industries that are piloting the concept like distribution supply chain. It’s great to see specific roles being created in IT teams to explore the benefits technologies like this can bring to business. Architects in the digital world have a much broader creative spectrum for innovation.

With more users, more access points and more data to secure on networks, what does Teneo offer in regards to network security?

We’re careful to make sure a customer’s network security tools don’t end up overlapping too much but still cover all the necessary gaps. Our priorities are making sure customers can deploy the same policies across their organisation from the endpoint to the cloud and sending just the right traffic to the right analytics tools at the right time, so the best quality information is derived and the network security estate is not oversized for the job.

Teneo will be at WAN Summit New York in April, what are you looking forward to at the event?

I’m looking forward to talking more about WAN performance monitoring on one of the panels at the WAN Summit as well as catching up with our partners. It’s also great to hear the customer stories about other organisations’ experiences, which is what keeps these themes so real.