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SD-WAN Roundup: The Battle Among CloudGenix, Talari, InSpeed, Bigleaf, Versa

Security proved to be a huge differentiator.

James Anderson

October 16, 2018

8 Min Read
SDN

Vendors have crowded the software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) market to the point where differentiating them takes a herculean effort.

A diverse mix of startups, established carriers and legacy vendors have claimed SD-WAN supremacy. Dell’Oro estimated in our previous column that approximately 40 companies are overtly marketing their platform. Launching an SD-WAN offering represents, for many companies, a necessary step to match their competitors, thus confusing which vendors are truly serious about the technology.

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Bigleaf’s Jeff Burchett

So today we endeavor to faithfully show you, the partner and the customer, the differences among five “pure-play” SD-WAN vendors.

The use case, as we have noted before, becomes a gigantic factor in deciding the best platform for a company, because the differences in most cases do not represent superiority or inferiority, but how particular customers will benefit from specific platforms.

“There’s a lot of noise around SD-WAN,” said Jeff Burchett, co-founder of Bigleaf Networks. “We all have different opinions, and frankly it’s not about one of us being dramatically better than the others, but [about] you guys figuring out who’s the best fit in the right situations.”

Bigleaf joined four other vendors on stage that Channel Partners Evolution Thunderdome last week. A committee of master agents grilled Bigleaf, CloudGenixInSpeed NetworksVersa Neworks and Talari Networks about how their products are different.

The discussion illustrated that the market is maturing and moving past marketing-induced misconceptions. And mercifully so.

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Versa Networks’ Rob McBride

For example, Versa’s director of marketing, Robert McBride, said companies now know that SD-WAN isn’t about cost savings. The transport itself does not necessarily save money up front, but there is a clear time-saving component on the operational side. But price formerly drove the SD-WAN conversation.

“It was centered around the concept that you were going to flip this switch, and all of a sudden everything would be broadband,” McBride said. “And a lot of customers learned that the hard way.”

It was interesting to note that the discussion hardly touched on the internet’s replacement of MPLS. Although companies like InSpeed said they are “not afraid” of replacement, the vendors all acknowledged that most customers will run their workloads over a combination of private networks and internet.

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Talari’s George Just

“We all thought maybe someone was going to flip a switch, and everything’s going all-internet,” said George Just, Talari’s vice president of sales. “That didn’t happen, and it’s probably not going to happen in our technology lifetime.”

The major benefit of the panel was that it forced all five vendors to answer the same questions in brief fashion, making it easy for the partner audience to spot their nuances. We have in the same spirit of brevity supplied three lists that compare each vendor.

The first observation was that each vendor uniquely described its value proposition. Although InSpeed CEO Ed Basart noted that his company and Bigleaf both see themselves as plug ‘n’ play, both offer several differences in terms of …

… security and go-to-market strategies.

Here’s what they had to say in a “lightning round” during the Thunderdome.

Q: What makes your SD-WAN solution unique?

  • Bigleaf: Site-to-cloud architecture that targets SaaS applications with onsite hardware and a nationwide backbone of PoPs.

  • InSpeed: It is an autonomous plug-n-play option.

  • CloudGenix: “Application-aware” architecture that does not use PoPs and is “compliance-driven.”

  • Versa: Built-in security capabilities married with an emphasis on networking and cloud.

  • Talari: “Fail-safe” governing that does preemptive failover before customers notice a problem.

It became clear as the conversation progressed that security is the new battleground for SD-WAN companies. As multiple studies have noted, security is both a driver for deployment and a chief concern. There are three main security approaches. The first is to create an SD-WAN solution that fits underneath a company’s existing firewall — the plug ‘n’ play method. The second has an embedded firewall – potentially a “next-gen firewall” –and the third is opening up the SD-WAN platform for integration with security vendors.

SD-WAN providers in most cases combine one or more of those approaches.

Q: How do you do security?

  • Bigleaf: Completely “transparent” to and separate from the customer’s security preference.

  • InSpeed: There is a plug-in version with an automatic firewall, and another version for site-to-site with native IPsec or an encrypted path.

  • CloudGenix: The company has evolved to create zone-based firewall at the edge and offers integrations with Zscaler, Palo Alto and Symantec.

  • Versa: A next-gen firewall is directly embedded, but it is open for integrations.

  • Talari: The company has a built-in firewall but can host a next-gen firewall.

Lastly, probably the third biggest point of nuance, is go-to-market strategies. Yes, most SD-WAN vendors call themselves partner-driven, but that looks different for every company. Some vendors – VeloCloud and Versa in particular – are well known for their widespread success partnering with carriers. But Ryan Williams, CloudGenix’s director of channel sales, said his company “cut its teeth” selling through channel partners.

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CloudGenix’s Ryan Williams

“We’ve now built scale, and we did it through feet on the street and grunt work with our customers,” Williams said.

Q: How can a customer acquire your solution?

  • Bigleaf: “Born of” the agent channel.

  • InSpeed: Its biggest partner demographic is voice systems resellers, but it is expanding to the MSP channel.

  • CloudGenix: A “sell-with” that began by targeting the midmarket and adding a managed service in the last two months.

  • Talari: VARs can sell a traditional router model, and customers can access a capex or op-ex from the agent channel, and the solution is available as a managed service.

  • Versa: Its strategy was initially to partner with service providers. It now has built a partner program to deliver a managed model.

The most memorable moment of the Thunderdome came when the “inquisitors” asked the vendors how they would describe vendors to a six-year-old. Ed Basart from InSpeed drew laughs when he related how SD-WAN makes workloads more efficient.

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InSpeed Network’s Ed Basart

“You know when you’re trying to watch your favorite video and it’s [buffering]? We fix that so you can see Barney,” he said.

None of the vendors came off any worse for wear when the panel concluded, despite a stringent line of questioning. If anything, it was a strong reminder that the use case is critical when determining the best SD-WAN vendor.

Oh, and you’ve got to love George Just’s homage to Mad Max.

Australian Adoption

A Frost & Sullivan survey found that more than one-half (51 percent) of Australian enterprises will launch SD-WAN in the upcoming 12 to 24 months.

One of the most interesting finds is the three main drivers of Australian SD-WAN adoption.

While spinning up branch sites and running their WAN and applications more efficiently are critical reasons for adopting, another driver is …

… being able to use “granular security policies.”

The Silver Peak-sponsored study concluded that banking and financial services offer the highest potential for deployment.

Another finding was that 55 percent of respondents plan to to replace their branch routers with an SD-WAN appliance. Frost & Sullivan’s Mark Dougan called this mindset “surprising.”

The study noted that 71 percent of Australian survey-takers demand the integration of WAN optimization into their SD-WAN solution. The survey of 850 global companies was conducted in the summer, but today’s announcement highlighted the 150 Australian respondents.

Quick Hits

  • Riverbed enhanced its SteelCentral networking monitoring solution. Read what Bridget Bisnette, senior vice president of global channel and commercial sales, said to partners at our conference last week.

  • Huawei rolled out a new series of routers for SD-WAN. The company designed the routers to “converge extensive branch services” and better serve a variety of interconnection methods. They also contain customer premises equipment (CPE) and universal CPE.

  • Australia-based Vodacom launched SD-WAN in South Africa. The carrier announced Monday that two enterprises in the country have deployed the offering. The Australian outlet My Broadband has the story.

  • Light Reading’s Carol Wilson has an interesting interview with Netsurion, which launched SD-WAN earlier this year. Wilson writes that MSPs are a “burgeoning” component of the security provider’s go-to-market strategy.

  • Juniper Networks‘ chief technology officer said his company plans to partner with more carriers. He called Juniper’s universal customer premises equipment (uCPE) a differentiating factor. Check out the SDxCentral article on the subject.

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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