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128 Technology Using 'Super Powers' In Battle With 'Complicated' SD-WAN Vendors

"We're not developing a technology that like all previous solutions in networking is an add-on," 128 Technology CEO Andy Ory says. "We're actually fixing a fundamental problem by simplifying things."

When it comes to competing in the crowded, cutthroat networking market, 128 Technology Co-Founder and CEO Andy Ory isn't interested in playing small-ball.

"We're not developing a technology that like all previous solutions in networking is an add-on," Ory says. "We're actually fixing a fundamental problem by simplifying things."

Ory and 128 Technology Co-Founder and COO Patrick MeLampy draw a bold line between the upstart networking software firm's approach, and that of its dozens of competitors. The more they talk about it, the bolder the line gets, especially when it comes to 128's recent push into software-defined WAN.

"We have competitors; there are 40 or 50 that claim they do SD-WAN," MeLampy said. "All of them except us, literally, uses tunnels, or have adopted some form of previous technology to migrate into this mammoth market. You have companies that did WAN acceleration, like Riverbed, Silver Peak, Aryaka. Then you have the start-up SD-WAN companies like Versa, VeloCloud, Viptela. All of them use tunnels. All of them have packet processing capabilities that sit on top of what's there. If you look at what it's doing, it's really, really complicated. Most people we talk to agree."

[Related: 128 Technology's President On Breaking Away From The SD-WAN Pack]

VeloCloud was acquired last year by virtualization kingpin VMware. Viptela was acquired last year, as well, by networking leader Cisco, setting 128 up for battle with the industry's largest, most well-funded firms.

Still, 128 says it has seen the number of partners it works with increase 50 percent in the last year, and the number of new customers working with 128 has increased 200 percent over the same time.

"What 128 Technology provides is the most feature-rich SD-WAN implementation of any vendor on the market," research firm CIMI Corp. said. "It's a perfect fit for prospects who are trying not only to manage VPN costs, but also for those trying to fit VPN technology into a world of mobility, virtualization and IOT."

Ory and MeLampy, who previously founded IP communications firm Acme Packet, said the "super power" that separates 128's software routing platform from the networking market's legacy vendors allows the start-up to approach SD-WAN simply as another networking use case.

128's software inserts meta data into network data packets, similar to a web browser inserting cookies in order to understand things about users. "We're doing it for the benefit of communicating network information," MeLampy said. "We can do it across network boundaries that currently don't support routing protocols, and across clouds."

The system allows Burlington, Mass.-based 128 to tackle all SD-WAN use cases, MeLampy said. "We can do inter-data center routing, basically any routing solution in any combination and provide intelligence," he said. "It's like signing into Gmail at home and still being signed in when you get to work."

128's approach to SD-WAN falls neatly in line with customers' networking demands, said Chris Farden, principal sales leader at Omada Technologies, a year-old Portsmouth, N.H., solution provider that works with 128.

"With 128, we got into the SD-WAN space outside of other legacy vendors," Farden said. "We didn't have the Ciscos, or the others in our portfolio. We needed an opportunity to explore the space and find out what the market looked like. We got in early with 128, and it really aligned with what we were seeing in the market."

As a start-up solution provider, Omada began with a focus on the cloud, software-defined technologies and hyper-converged infrastructure, said Co-Founder Matt Keane. "We all came from a background of hardware centric resale that relied on Cisco and EMC and we wanted to look at where trends are going with customers and align with that," he said. "From an activity perspective, it started with one or two deals, and now its double digit projects were working on. The activity has been skyrocketing."

Customers are drawn to SD-WAN by the potential for dramatic cost savings, Keane said, but are won over to 128 by its ease of management and ability to work with hardware from nearly any vendor.

"Cost savings is a huge factor, but we're seeing more RFPs for SD-WAN specifically where it's about management, deployment, the ability to work with multiple hardware vendors," Keane said. "People are more open to the conversation than they were. They're more open to exploring software-defined solutions if they have flexibility with the hardware they deploy. That's a big piece of what's making 128 successful. The value is in the software. You can customize the way you build out your network and do it at a speed that just isn't available when you rely on a hardware solution."

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