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SD-WAN Roundup: QOS Networks on M&A, 5G and the End of 'Branch-Based' SD-WAN

Does SD-WAN need to move from a branch-based approach to a user-based approach?

James Anderson

November 27, 2020

7 Min Read
World of opportunities, networking
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SD-WAN needs to move from a branch-based approach to a user-based approach, according to QOS Networks CEO Frank Cittadino.

The goal is to bring “ubiquitous” performance, security and reliability to end users, regardless of their location. Cittadino envisions users accessing software on a laptop through an agent to access the cloud.

“That’s the exciting piece, because now we’re thinking about ways to not have them route through the branch. Not route them through a hybrid data center like a typical VPN would,” Cittadino told Channel Partners.

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QOS Networks’ Frank Cittadino

Cittadino discussed how 5G and remote work are impacting the SD-WAN industry’s conception of the branch. The leader of the California-based managed network services provider explained how he expects enterprise networking to evolve over the next few years.

For starters, QOS is projecting 20%-30% of customers to never return to the branch, another 20%-30% to return to the branch in a hybrid fashion and the remainder to stay in the branch.

“The forecast I put out for my team is, ‘Look, the branch was great up until this year.’ And we all kind of knew that users were going to leave the branch. This year, obviously with the events that are unfolding, we’ve changed our forecast,” Cittadino said.

Home SD-WAN

Our collective understanding of network edge expanded this year to include the home office. So what should we think of home-based SD-WAN solutions like that of Bigleaf Networks?

Cittadino doesn’t sound terribly bullish. Although QOS has deployed SD-WAN to some customers’ homes, its partners aren’t reporting much traction.

We recently compiled a list of 20 top SD-WAN providers offering products and services via channel partners.

It’s worth noting that QOS on average sells to larger customers than that of Bigleaf, which expressly targets SMBs and the midmarket.

“Where we work are the 30,000-40,000-[person] customers who are not sending 40,000 boxes home. There’s just no way. There’s just functionally no way that anyone’s going to do that. It’s cost-prohibitive and logistically prohibitive,” Cittadino said. “So you’ve got to go back to the software, VPN-type solution that’s got performance, reliability and security built in.”

Cittadino calls the approach a “temporary fix to a permanent problem.” The bigger problem, according to Cittadino, is the need to give employees flexibility and mobility.

“No one wants a box at their house,” he said. “I don’t want a box at my house. It’s cumbersome; it’s hard. I don’t want someone to ship me a box and say, ‘Use this thing.’ I can’t take my box with me, because then I’m just bound to my home. And functionally, I don’t want to be bound my home.”

Mobility Matters

And that brings us to 5G. Terrestrial-based internet currently outperforms 4G LTE. But the game will change when 5G comes of age.

“It’s consistently better than 4G. 4G may be good, but I could walk down the block and lose this call in a minute. So we’re thinking, once 5G comes out, internet connections are going to be better. It’s going to hypermobilize the world. People aren’t going to want to sit at home any more,” Cittadino said.

Yes, Cittadino acknowledges the spotty coverage that analysts have observed in 5G’s early rollout. But he said users don’t need 5G everywhere to work efficiently. They need it at a park or outside a Starbucks or at a mall.

“I think what will happen is the cellphones and the technology will start to alert us where 5G is,” he said. “It will start to say, ‘Hey, 5G network’s nearby.’ And we can walk 50 feet to the right, sit down and work for the day and have a really awesome internet connection.”

Cittadino predicts that as employees do more business outside of homes and office branches, security will …

… play an even bigger role in SD-WAN purchasing.

“There’s going to come a time in the near future when a customer is going to say, ‘Network security is equally as important as my network performance,'” he said. “I might buy for performance today, but I might have some reasonable needs to buy for security tomorrow. I want to make sure my security guys have the ability to roll something out in a seamless fashion and not have to rip apart the WAN that I put in.’”

QOS

We caught up with QOS a year ago after it landed its first government customer. The company has deployed 34,000 appliances to customers in about 40 countries. It sells directly and through the agent channel, and it also supports CenturyLink and AT&T.

The company two months ago announced a funding round from a private equity firm. While QOS regards itself as the leader in MSP SD-WAN, Cittadino said the new funds will help the company scale to compete with the likes of Windstream and MetTel.

“Not being a multibillion-dollar company like them and having funded the business from the ground up three or four years ago, we said it’s probably time to bring in institutional capital and really start to widen our stance at the network edge. Start to go out of the branch and into end user.”

Cittadino said the company is adopting an “acquisitive” posture for the next year 20-36 months. While the company is aiming for 50% yearly organic growth, Cittadino said his team will be looking for ancillary purchases that give the end user extra value.

SD-WAN M&A

The SD-WAN industry has ramped up consolidation in 2020. Whereas the acquisitions of Viptela, VeloCloud and Talari took place over a year-and-a-half, we seen vendors gobble up CloudGenix, Silver Peak and 128 Technology within the span of seven months this year.

Cittadino voiced his confusion over HPE’s decision to buy Silver Peak for $925 million. Cittadino said HPE lacked a strong networking footprint outside of its Aruba unit and paid too much.

“They don’t get a good enterprise roster of customers, and they don’t have a product that scales extremely well. Oh, and it’s very expensive, and the hardware is bifurcated from the software. But you paid two times that of VeloCloud [$449 million], who’s the clear market leader,” he said.

Security has played a big role in these 2020 acquisitions and will play a bigger role in the future, according to Cittadino. Take for instance Palo Alto Networks, which bought CloudGenix. Cittadino said many security vendors reacted to customers replacing their edge firewalls with SD-WAN. On the other hand, companies like VMware and Cisco that already bought SD-WAN are looking to build more security into their offerings. Meanwhile, Cato Networks promises to provide centralized management of both security and network.

Versa Partnership

Versa Networks has expanded its international footprint through two partnerships.

First, Versa has lent its SD-WAN and SASE services to OmniClouds‘ software-defined networking (SDN) network platform in an agreement that bolsters OmniCloud’s services in Middle East and Africa. The cloud service provider will use Versa as an overlay for its connectivity sources while providing “full hybrid cloud connectivity.”

Second, Versa teamed up with MCM Telecom, a Mexican service provider. As a result, MCM and its customers get access to advanced network routing.

Versa recently landed in the “Leaders” category of the Gartner WAN Edge Magic Quadrant.

Quick Hits

  • Windstream Enterprise enhanced its customer portal to give users more visibility into their networks. The enhanced WE Connect Insight Engine lets businesses better analyze their SD-WAN environment. See Windstream’s announcement.

  • Cisco and Wipro teamed up to deliver SD-WAN to a major Japanese manufacturer. See their press release.

  • U.K. telco BT is harnessing VMware’s SD-WAN solution. BT is utilizing VMware SD-WAN as part of a larger, “cloud-optimised” managed network service. Check out the announcement.

  • Distributor Ingram Micro signed an agreement with the SASE provider iBoss.

  • We recently wrote about Cato Networks’ ambitious plans to increase its headcount. Another large funding round is enabling the expansion. Read our article.

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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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