Talari President: Cisco Has An SD-WAN 'Innovation Dilemma Issue'

Talari Ready To Lead The SD-WAN Pack

John Dickey, president and co-founder of software-defined WAN specialist Talari Networks, says his company is striving to become the leader in the fast-growing SD-WAN market which is expected to reach $6 billion by 2020, according to the research firm IDC.

Dickey said although he respects competitors like Cisco and CloudGenix, San Jose, Calif.-based Talari has the most experience in the SD-WAN market and is more than capable of leading the pack as the industry begins to mature. "The 1990s way of doing things is hard to do," Dickey said, in an interview with CRN.

Dickey talks to CRN about the SD-WAN market, competition and Talari's new distribution partnership with Tech Data revealed on Tuesday.

Cisco is acquiring your SD-WAN competitor Viptela for $610 million. What does this mean for you and the rest of the SD-WAN market?

It validates that we have a real market here that's evolving. It's an emerging market and going to continue to merge and accelerate. It's a stamp of validation of what we're trying to do here.

On the other side of that too is Cisco. So they also have an [SD-WAN] solution, but the problem is there's an innovation dilemma issue there. They have legacy technology that they've tried to adapt to world challenges. And the complexity of the new world challenges, you know -- the applications are different, the workflow is different, the use cases are different, and frankly the IT teams are different. The 1990s way of doing things is hard to do.

What do you mean by Cisco's 1990s way of doing things?

Cisco's using legacy technology from the 1990s and trying to adopt it to 2017 challenges. That was the [Cisco] iWAN solution, and they gave a good try. It was confusing how they did that with the Cisco Prime originally, then they have Gluware [through a technology partnership with Glue Networks], then APIC-EM (Application Policy Infrastructure Controller-Enterprise Module). So there's a little bit of trashing there strategically to their customers.

Do you think acquiring Viptela will enhance Cisco's SD-WAN strategy?

Viptela is technologically very similar to Cisco – a lot of the same 1990s technologies underpinning, but with a better orchestration facility that takes a lot of burden off the IT teams. It's a good play on their part. I still think It's confusing though. An integration at this really key time where the reliable proven solutions are going to start breaking out. It was necessary that Cisco made a move. It may not be a very successful outcome from there right now. At least that's our intent because we're going to show that we're going to be successful.

What about Cisco Meraki?

People don't talk about Meraki too much. I think it's an outstanding solution in terms of easy to use. The problem is, it's a limited solution in terms of flexibility, so that doesn't solve all their problems.

What differentiates Talari in the SD-WAN market from competitors?

We were doing this type of solution before anyone labeled it SD-WAN. If you counted the number of locations deployed in production networks, the number of hours that have been running in production networks – Talari is far and away the most mature player out there.

A lot of other players are in the first or second generation of product, and they're having scale issues and things … like CloudGenix – I respect them very much and they're very innovative – but they don't quite have that depth of time in the production networks and providing quality of experience (QoE) solutions that we do.

Where is Talari most successful selling SD-WAN solutions?

We're mostly currently successful in what I call the layer around the WAN. So we don't do a lot of business with AT&T, we have a little business with AT&T and Verizon, but not really with the big ISPs (Internet Service Providers) or big NSPs (Network Service Providers). We are more friendly around the WAN edge – the people that are providing services around the network. So that's the cloud service providers, the Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers -- like LightEdge for example -- that is our sweet spot. Because we are helping them manage the service provider WAN, inside of the ISPs and NSPs.

Are you more focused on the service provider or enterprise market?

There's SD-WAN players that are managed service provider only focused. There's SD-WAN players enterprise only focused. We go to multiple places. There will be a little bit of the breakout for the lead pack and I believe we are in that lead pack.

The most vital parts of any enterprise network is the WAN. If the WAN goes, it's going to affect the IT team's careers. So they need to go to a trusted player and that's where this is going to start evolving. It's not easy to have people trust that the solution is going to work, and we keep delivering the solution and solving the problem.

You just announced a new partnership with distributor Tech Data. What does this mean for Talari?

Now that we have Tech Data, they have over 100,000 partners – so it's a really great move for us. They don't partner lightly. We're the first one they're going with. I'm proud of the fact that we've earned that reputation, the innovator, that they feel comfortable bringing us to their partners.

Channel ready is not just about the size of the company. Channel ready is the company that can bring success to the channel partners and Talari has already proven that through solving the problems and having people make money with us.

Why should Tech Data's channel community be excited about Talari?

We have a friendly channel business for them.

We are able to be agile with different partner relationships and nuance them for various needs. We're able to find win-win a lot more … Having Tech Data on helps us too, and helps us handle [partner relationships]. We just can't scale the number of partnerships fast enough, and Tech Data will help us with that. It's our ability to provide a quality of product that will not have a reputation issue for the partner. At the same time, we provide a good economic model for us where partners can make a lot of money selling our products to the customers. And we have very loyal customers.