Riding The SD-WAN Rocket Ship

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The Competition Heats Up

Intensifying the competition between the industry giants, Dell EMC in March launched the Virtual Edge Platform -- x86-based, universal virtual networking customer premise equipment that executives say can be sold to enterprises adopting SD-WAN, and as a clear alternative to buying more expensive, proprietary Cisco routers.

Robert Keblusek, CTO of Sentinel Technologies, a Downers Grove, Ill.-based solution provider, said products like VeloCloud and Viptela "really bring an enterprise-class SD-WAN product into a VMware and Cisco."

"That really will help customers become more comfortable in adopting something new. The amount of R&D and the amount of support that's behind those opens a huge number of opportunities for us as an integrator and as a managed service provider," said Keblusek.

The need for greater business agility, security, hybrid cloud computing and Software as a Service is killing off the old way of monolithic networks.

"This is more than a disruption, it's an evolution," Keblusek said. "Everybody has to now look in this direction. It has absolutely forced Cisco and others to redefine their strategy going forward."

Other vendors are also following suit. WAN optimization stalwart Riverbed has quickly doubled down on becoming an SD-WAN force by acquiring two companies, Ocedo and Xirrus, in less than 15 months. Windstream, for its part, launched its SD-WAN offering in 2017, which now boasts more than 500 customers. And sales from Citrix Systems' NetScaler SD-WAN offering is enabling the company to post healthy networking growth.

Bridget Bisnette, vice president of global partner strategy and sales at Riverbed, said the company's SD-WAN evolution puts it in a position to guide customers through what is becoming a crowded market.

Riverbed recently added support for AWS Direct Connect and Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute to its SteelConnect SD-WAN offering. SteelConnect also allows customers to deploy and manage SD-WAN and Wi-Fi from a single cloud-based console and can use LTE wireless uplinks to increase network reach and connectivity.

"We're having a lot of discussions, and we're trying to help cut through the marketing clutter and help customers figure out what it means and take the next step," Bisnette said. "It's kind of like the early days of cloud. It's a different way of acquiring technology, and app performance, app response -- we can grow into that and tie these things together."

SD-WAN specialist CloudGenix grew sales a whopping 300 percent in 2017 with even higher revenue growth expected this year. CloudGenix CEO Kumar Ramachandran said unlike the virtualization boom that transformed the data center in the mid-2000s, SD-WAN is disrupting remote and branch of‑ces, which are becoming more important for businesses.

"If you're a bank, the bank branch is where you're meeting your customer. The retail store is where you're meeting customers. Especially as the data center transforms to the cloud, as an enterprise your whole focus is ensuring that all these places of doing business have an infrastructure model that's in line and in tune with the cloud," said Ramachandran. "I fully think this is the biggest transformation since virtualization in the data center. This is a massive transformation."

Talari, for its part, was one of the first companies with an SD-WAN offering, and 10 years in, the company is booking dramatic new customer account growth of 175 percent quarter over quarter. In late 2017, the company hired a new CEO, Dell Technologies veteran Patrick Sweeney, and said that it would push all of its sales through the channel.

George Just, vice president of worldwide sales for Talari, said the growing list of SD-WAN vendors could sow the seed of confl­ict for solution providers.

"If I was competing in the SD-WAN space and was a Viptela partner, and now they've become available to every single Cisco partner, I just got a whole

bunch of new competition selling the same thing I had," Just said. "If anything, it provides us an advantage because we're independent. It's still a pure SD-WAN play. It remains to be seen what VeloCloud's product is going to look like within VMware. Do I have to be a VMware customer? Do I have to change my infrastructure to a VMware infrastructure? Same with Viptela."

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