Once upon a time, networking consisted of routers and switches pushing data from one point to another with little fanfare or innovation. Then, it seems, the market woke up and discovered that companies need much more than simple connectivity. Networking, it seems, is sexy again.

“I believe there is a market inflection point going on,” said Bob Bruce, senior vice president of Channels at Silver Peak, which specializes in WAN optimization and software-defined WAN (SD-WAN).

As such, he said, the old school networking vendors are at risk of becoming dinosaurs. “Be cool or be cast out,” as the old Rush tune says (although that song had more to do with conformity than innovation).

“The future is not guaranteed to anyone who has played in this space before,” he noted. “There have been a number of transformative events that have taken place in IT over the years, and if you look at each of the transformative events, there have been winners and losers with vendors and with VARs as well—If they didn’t make the transformation, they were gone.”

Bruce is leading the charge to the next generation of software-defined networking (SDN), via SD-WAN, which he believes is best to support the drivers of the new market economy—software as a service, infrastructure as a service, security segmentation—which itself is being driven by the new business needs of cloud and mobility. “Those are driving business needs, where the new WAN and Internet broadband play a new share in enterprise connectivity.”

And Bruce oughta know. As a veteran of the IT networking space—he’s spent the last 30-plus years at networking stalwarts 3Com (remember them?) Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Juniper Networks (JNPR), as well as Aruba Networks (ARUN), where he was channel chief until 2012. He then spent a few years working as a consultant before joining Silver Peak in November.

As channel chief, he is tasked with ensuring Silver Peak’s channel partners—existing and new—understand the market drivers and disruptors that are driving the push to SDN. As such, he is morphing the current channel program to go beyond tiers and margins and focus on helping partners and customers make the transition both knowledgeably and without haste.

How is Bruce so sure of the future of SD-WAN? For one, he said, the Open Networking User Group (ONUG), whose members include “major corporations,” is saying the market is going in that direction. Not to mention all the activity around SDN among venture capitalists—“VCs are placing their bets on this market,” he said.

“So my responsibility to the market and to customers and our VAR community is putting together an ecosystem that can adopt to the changing market,” Bruce added.

For one, the company is putting an emphasis on schooling its partners and customers about the benefits of SDN so they understand why the market is heading this way. And Silver Peak is extending its program to reach to service providers, who Bruce said will be a leader in driving market adoption.

Another potential driver? Managed services providers (MSPs).

“I think for the first time MSPs will come to the forefront because of the complexity of the technology and the delivery,” he noted. “And enterprises want to offload connectivity service and management to someone else. Think of it as a utility.

“Enterprises are going to be selling cloud services and we will be targeting those old traditional telcos, cloud providers and new breed of MSPs that are branching out all over the place,” he added.

Bruce is confident in the way networking is transforming. Whether SD-WAN becomes the de facto technology remains to be seen, but it’s a safe bet the bells are tolling for networking vendors—and their partners—that aren’t engaging in SDN on some level.