iOCO offers Africa-focused SD-WAN solution to IT landscape
After a year-long due diligence process, EOH, a JSE-listed technology services firm, through its IT services company, iOCO, has chosen to extend its partnership with Fortinet, a global leader in broad, integrated and automated cyber security solutions, in order to offer its software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) solution to the southern African market.
As explained by Fortinet, an SD-WAN solution connects users to any application wherever it resides, from the data centre to the cloud. SD-WAN intelligently determines which path best meets the ideal performance needs for a specific application. It then routes the traffic through to the best WAN path, whereas traditional WAN architectures only have the ability to route all applications through MPLS. Further, Fortinet’s FortiGate solutions integrate next-generation firewalls and SD-WAN capabilities on a single platform.
iOCO is the ICT services business of the EOH Group and Brett van Rensburg, Sales Director for iOCO’s Compute division, explains: “As a listed entity, EOH has a wide spectrum of services that we bring to the market, with a particular strength in ICT services via iOCO. The company has over two decades of delivering full IT outsources to some of Africa’s largest enterprises, and we are therefore perfectly positioned to assist in driving any organisation’s IT and ICT strategy. We have placed a major focus on big data, the Internet of things (IOT), artificial intelligence (AI), zero trust networking and mobility over the past 12 months. This level of continued innovation makes iOCO a leader in technology in Africa.
“SD-WAN technology and its related benefits are highly relevant currently, and clients at a global level are readily adopting this product set. It was logical then, when looking for an SD-WAN offering to bring to the local market, for us to look at the major providers on a global basis. Based on this premise, we underwent a rigorous request for proposal (RFP) process to choose our providers. From 15 initial contenders, we followed an in-depth process that eventually led us, over a period of a year, to Fortinet’s FortiGate offering.”
Van Rensburg clarifies that the partnership was facilitated with the assistance of Networks Unlimited Africa, a value-added distributor for Fortinet.
“The EOH Group has a long-standing relationship with Networks Unlimited that spans over a decade,” he says. “During this time, we’ve come to understand each other’s businesses, and have developed enterprise solutions for many clients in the market. Today, the two companies find themselves on the edge of new technology, and are leading software-defined networking within the South African market.”
Van Rensburg notes that iOCO is an agnostic SD-WAN partner in the market, but adds: “However, we acknowledge that FortiGate is a leading product set, and the Fortinet relationship is well respected in the EOH Group. It works for us as a vendor, as well as for our clients in developing their security strategies. Therefore, when looking at software-defined networking in the South African market, it was a logical step to have a discussion regarding the FortiGate SD-WAN products, to see how this specific strategy has been developed to meet African standards.”
The top business benefits that a Fortinet SD-WAN solution can provide for clients, according to Van Rensburg, include the ability to create additional bandwidth at their sites; stronger service level agreements through the multiple infrastructures; granular reporting; and the advantages of the zero touch deployment.
“The client gains from access to a strong SD-WAN offering plus all the additional value delivered by the Fortinet platform, which is a big differentiator,” he notes. “What we have found, working together with Networks Unlimited and Fortinet, is that they really took the time to understand what it meant to develop within South Africa and the broader African continent. It has been very easy to adopt and therefore beneficial to our clients.
“In my opinion, of all the SD-WAN providers, Fortinet’s solution fits the African landscape better than any other, largely because the company has taken the time to understand how technology is adopted and works across this footprint. The solution fit speaks to the types of infrastructure delivered throughout Africa, and the commercial models make sense too. Another contributing factor is the localised support and training. In-country resources enable successful deployments and support of the Fortigate SD-WAN product set.”
Earlier this year, Fortinet was positioned by global research and advisory firm, Gartner, in the leaders' quadrant of the September 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for WAN Edge Infrastructure, placing higher in its ability to execute, and further in its completeness of vision, when compared to its position the previous year.
“The significance of this,” says Van Rensburg, “is that it underlines the fact that Fortinet has taken the time to understand the true value for their clients, and what they want to achieve – hence its move to the leaders' quadrant.”
Van Rensburg adds that the iOCO team has been impressed by the services levels offered by both Networks Unlimited and Fortinet, and their collective willingness to become involved in creating client-focused solutions.
“We have definitely seen the partnership with Networks Unlimited growing in strength, with a steady client adoption of the FortiGate solution. We have also seen a number of legacy MPLS clients making the decision to move to an SD-WAN offering because of its benefits to the business. The Networks Unlimited and iOCO teams are consistently working together on providing and improving solutions, and we are continuously aware of value-adds that the market is looking for. This is not a static relationship – instead, the Networks Unlimited and iOCO relationship is an ongoing development and a growing partnership, with the teams working together constructively and continuously,” he concludes.