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IT Management: MSPs Face Network Hardware Diversity Challenges

Even as more workloads shift to the cloud, traditional networking equipment—switches, firewalls, wireless access points, and routers— are still a huge part of today's business infrastructure. That hardware is the backbone that keeps offices humming along, ensuring connectivity for every device.

CPO Alex Hoff
Auvik Networks VP Alex Hoff

The challenge? MSPs that win 'new' customer engagements often have to manage a hodgepodge of 'existing' network infrastructure for the customer. Why? Perhaps the customer is reluctant to replace something that currently works -- even if the MSP pushes to consolidate hardware providers for simplified management.

How diverse are the network infrastructures that MSPs manage? Roughly 75 percent of MSPs manage customer networking gear from four or more vendors. Moreover, roughly one-third of MSPs manage customer network hardware from six to 10 different vendors.

Those figured surfaced in Auvik Networks new report, Managing Network Vendor Diversity: The MSP Challenge. The data spans roughly 1,000 MSPs that manage nearly 100,000 network devices deployed across nearly 17,000 networks, Auvik says.

MSP Customer Networks: Top Networking Vendors

Still, there are some dominant vendors within the fragmented market. For instance, the report finds:

  • Nearly 37 percent of devices are from Cisco (including Cisco-owned Meraki); and
  • nearly 20 percent of devices are from HP Enterprise (including of devices from HPE-owned Aruba).

The following nine networking vendors represent roughly 80 percent of the installed base:

  1. Cisco Systems
  2. HP Enterprise
  3. Meraki (from Cisco)
  4. Ubiquiti
  5. SonicWALL
  6. Aruba (from HPE)
  7. Ruckus
  8. Dell Technologies

Side note: Datto has acquired and launched a portfolio of network devices built specifically for MSPs. We'll be watching to see if Datto's gear moves into that Top Nine list in the years ahead, assuming Auvik produces this research report annually.

Multi-vendor Networks: MSP Challenges

In a bid to standardize customers on specific vendors, many MSPs will have at least one vendor for switching devices; another for access points; and maybe even a third or fourth covering the remaining network hardware within each individual client.

“This diversity can drag on an MSP’s efficiency, and ultimately their profitability since it challenges their ability to scale," according to Auvik VP of Product and Sales Alex Hoff.

Ideally, MSPs will march their customers toward network vendor consolidation -- perhaps gaining a single pane of glass for network management. When standardization is not possible, some of these issues can be resolved through third-party management platforms.

Not by coincidence, Auvik specializes in network-centric RMM software. The company raised roughly US$15.6 million in funding earlier this year.

Additional insights from Joe Panettieri.