Silver Peak CEO: Cisco's 'Old Ways' Won't Cut It In Software-Defined WAN Market

As software-defined WAN technology begins to gain a foothold in the market, Silver Peak CEO David Hughes said the key to taking share is comparing Cisco Systems' "old way" of WAN optimization with Silver Peak's new way of leveraging the Internet to perform like a private network.

"People have been stuck with the same way of doing things for 15 years," said Hughes in an interview with CRN. "The biggest competition we have in this SD-WAN evolution is the inertia with Cisco of doing the same things the same way that's already been done. … That's the challenge of getting people to understand that there's a really new way of doing things and you don't need a [Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert] to be able to get this to work."

Silver Peak, which touts itself as a leader in building broadband and hybrid WANs, revealed its vision Monday for augmenting or replacing multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) networks with enterprise-grade broadband WANs. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based vendor unveiled its Unity EdgeConnect overlay solution that it said will allow enterprises to significantly reduce the cost and complexity of building a WAN by leveraging broadband to connect users to applications, according to Hughes.

[Related: Silver Peak Hires New Channel Chief To Prep For Software-Defined WAN]

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Jayson Tobias, vice president of IT, operations and managed services at Alexander Open Systems, a Silver Peak and Cisco Gold partner, said Silver Peak is providing customers with better software-defined WAN solutions compared with Cisco.

"Having been intimately familiar with Cisco for over 15 years, I can attest that they make an excellent product," said Tobias. "However, when I placed both the Cisco and Silver Peak solutions side-by-side in front of my staff, Silver Peak won hands-down with the speed and ease of which the entire solution could be deployed and maintained. Once the time involved with initial setup and total cost of ownership was factored in, there was no comparison."

Hughes said there is customer frustration around the cost of MPLSes and how they're not set up to work at "cloud speed" and deal with cloud applications. To combat this, enterprises and service providers are seeking how to leverage the Internet, he said.

"[Unity EdgeConnect] lets them take advantage of the low-cost broadband Internet connectivity and get much more direct and simple connectivity from the user to those cloud applications and native applications in the data center," said Hughes. "This is a big opportunity for everyone in the channel."

Hughes said software-defined WAN or a virtual WAN approach is going to transform the way a WAN is built as well as the market leaders in the space. Gartner's 2015 Magic Quadrant for WAN Optimization listed Silver Peak, Riverbed Technology and Cisco as the leaders in the field.

"With [Cisco’s Intelligent WAN solution], they're still talking about routers, they're still talking about complicated routing protocols -- it's not really a rethink with an [innovative] Apple or a Skype-like mentality," said Hughes. "Of those WAN optimization players, we're the only ones that from day one implemented our technology in an overlay. … The other guys’ WAN optimization technology [is] based on proxies so they can't make this transition easily."

Cisco responded to Silver Peak’s comments by saying its current software-defined WAN solution does not only include IWAN, but Integrated Services Routers, an Application Policy Infrastructure Controller Enterprise Module and also brings its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) automation into the WAN.

"We believe that the WAN will become a service delivery platform -- a way for businesses to manage and support new apps and bring computing power and analytics to the edge of the network," said Cisco in a statement to CRN. "[Our] comprehensive solution provides customers and partners with the ability to assign dynamic policies that enable the network to automatically adjust bandwidth and make routing decisions, on a per-application basis, according to real-time conditions."

Tobi Sicklesteel, director of sales for AmeriNet an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based solution provider that partners with Silver Peak and Cisco, said Silver Peak's offerings are the "most complete solution" for WAN customers and its Unity EdgeConnect is "a real game-changer."

"All of our customers rely on the WAN, and increasingly more on the cloud," said Sicklesteel. "With Unity EdgeConnect, Silver Peak is enabling us to be on the forefront of something big in the SD-WAN space. … This solution is scalable and flexible, meaning as customer needs change, we can help them quickly add branch offices, increase performance and reduce costs."

Unity EdgeConnect has a starting price of $199 per month.