Is software-defined WAN a best-of-breed play or part of an end-to-end solution? The answer varies, of course, depending on who you're talking to, but one thing is clear: SD-WAN does take out some complexity issues when building a best-of-breed solution.
"With SD-WAN I think it's a lot simpler to put the best-of-breeds together," said Sanjay Uppal, co-founder and CEO of SD-WAN vendor VeloCloud. "We've seen in a single customer, for the larger branches they'll go best-of-breed, but for the smaller branches they want everything integrated. And it's very possible to do this with SD-WAN because you can mix and match. You can even have a service running at the edge, which you can migrate to the cloud. Just like how a workflow migrates, you can migrate the SD-WAN service itself. That's pretty significant [and] something that the channel can make use of."
Kumar Ramachandran, founder and CEO of SD-WAN startup CloudGenix, said best-of-breed is the way to go. Through REST API-based integrations, CloudGenix customers can bring together multiple products on the same software platform, he said.
"So now we can bring in CloudGenix with Palo Alto Networks, with Zscaler, or anything else, and you have visibility across those services. There is good orchestration across those services," said Ramachandran. "This is empowering for the channel partner. All of a sudden you go from this model where you were completely tied in and locked down to one vendor and it's very difficult for you to offer best-of-breed to your customer, to now you can offer best-of-breed to your customer."
Versa Networks CEO Kelly Ahuja said the company, like some others in the market, can offer a complete best-of-breed SD-WAN solution in-house.
"If you're just going to be best-of-breed, you're going to have complexity and cost in your business. You can be best-of-breed with a single vendor, and that's what Versa offers," said Ahuja. "Whatever you can do with CloudGenix and multiple vendors -- you can do that but have the high cost and high complexity – or you can do it with Versa, with a single vendor approach and have much better profitability."
But what are solution providers saying is the best way to sell SD-WAN?
Piers Carey, co-founder and CEO of Teneo, a global solution provider based in the U.K. who partners with Talari, Riverbed Technology and Cisco-Viptela, said SD-WAN projects have been ramping up over the past few months. The solution provider sells SD-WAN as a service to customers on a subscription basis.
Carey believes the greatest opportunity for the channel is around selling an end-to-end SD-WAN solution.
"Many organizations out there who have invested heavily in the security team -- they buy best-of-breed products. Generally speaking, they want to build this and we're more just transactional," said Carey. "For me, the real opportunity and where the market is going is looking for organizations who can provide a broader solution more than just a best-of-breed solution. Going beyond that and into security."