Ahead Of Acquisition By VMware, VeloCloud Challenges Cisco By Aiming For Outcomes, Not Intents, With New SD-WAN Offering

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Little more than two months before VMware acquires it, SD-WAN provider VeloCloud Networks has aimed at the "intent-based" networking model being championed by archrival Cisco Systems.

VeloCloud on Monday rolled out a new suite of "outcome-driven networking," functionality for its subscription-based cloud-delivered SD-WAN solution. The company's exes say this new offering leapfrogs intent-based networking in the race to simplify networking operations for corporate IT organizations. VeloCloud is also testing a program that rewards partners for knocking out customers' existing routers and replacing them with VeloCloud SD-WAN.

The new functionality brings the fight to Cisco, the market's dominant networking vendor, on two fronts. Hand-in-hand with the launch of outcome-driven networking, VeloCloud is rolling out a program that allows customers to trade in their existing routers when they migrate to VeloCloud SD-WAN. "We know there are a lot of businesses out there that are saddled with legacy routers and are looking to activate a refresh," said Mike Wood, VeloCloud vice president of marketing. VeloCloud has brought about three partners into the trade-in program and plans to roll it out to others gradually.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: VeloCloud Gets Service Providers To 'Ready, Set, GO' Sell SD-WAN

"Given that the outcome-driven networking model enables you to eliminate and annihilate your router that's in the network, it ends up being almost a burden," Wood said.

"Cisco has been one of the vendors that has talked about intent-based networking the most," said Wood. "But it's never manifested itself; it's never become a reality."

In development for about six months, VeloCloud's outcome-driven networking solution is a feature of VeloCloud's Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN solution, making it a more effective way to automate and orchestrate the network, because it can be overlaid on any existing network, Wood said.

By contrast, Wood said intent-based networking solutions require users to "start from scratch, " and it is "not something you can just add on or insert into the legacy-style routers that are out there."

"Intent-based has been named that way purposely because you have to know exactly what your intents are, and there's much more complexity around attempting to deliver it, which is why it hasn't manifested," Wood said. "The outcome model is focused on business outcomes themselves, and there's much better abstraction."

This argument of whether networking should be focused on intents or outcomes is merely the latest skirmish in a competitive battle between VMware and Cisco. Both firms have taken up arms in the red-hot market for SD-WAN, which seeks to connect and manage large enterprise networks with software that abstracts many of the previously hardware-centric features of proprietary routers. VMware earlier this month inked a deal to acquire VeloCloud in a move that some partners said could put Cisco in "panic mode." Six months ago, Cisco acquired SD-WAN start-up Viptela for $610 million.

Mike Frane, vice president of product management at Little Rock, Ark.-based service provider Windstream, said outcome-based networking allows partners to move faster and compete more effectively than they can with intent-based solutions. Already, SD-WAN accounts for about 19 percent of Windstream's most recent quarterly revenues. "With intent-based, you intend for the network to do one thing," Frane said. "The outcome-based approach is better because it's more about the result for the customer, not the buttons behind the curtain."

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