January 20, 2018
**Editor’s Note: This is the latest in a series of articles on the state of SD-WAN, featuring perspectives from vendors and analysts. Check out our previous SD-WAN roundup featuring Zayo Group and Bill Kleyman.**
In a world of SD-WAN vendors that all sound alike, Bigleaf Networks relishes its differences.
Bigleaf on Tuesday announced $4.9 million in new equity investments. The company states that it will grow its sales and marketing efforts, network footprint and technology development. CEO and founder Joel Mulkey says the organization plans to triple its staff and add multiple regional channel managers.
Bulking up the channel team makes sense for Mulkey and co-founder Jeff Burchett, who call the investment round a “byproduct of channel success.” Burchett cites strong channel growth and new master-agent relationships over the last two years. The Beaverton, Oregon-based company started its channel program with Intelisys in 2015 and signed with CNSG, MicroCorp and Telarus in 2016. Telarus partners voted it the master agent’s best new supplier for 2016.
Bigleaf’s Jeff Burchett
“This investment is pretty much driven by the success we’ve had in the channel,” said Burchett, who serves as vice president of sales and marketing. “When we put together the plan for Bigleaf – when we got above ground – we knew we wanted to be a channel-focused company right out of the gate. That’s hard to do for a startup at the very beginning, because you have to build out that network of channel partners. You’ve got to convince them to give you a chance on some early deals.”
And what exactly does Bigleaf offer? The simplest description is “cloud-first” SD-WAN, meaning that the company focuses on cloud connectivity instead of private networks.
“It’s not SD-WAN to replace or augment MPLS networks; rather, it’s SD-WAN specifically purpose-built connectivity to public-facing cloud and SaaS applications. It’s less about building a more resilient hub-and-spoke private WAN. It’s more about ensuring that the voice in your UCaaS service is crystal clear and your desktop-as-a-service application and all your SaaS applications are available and performing the way you want,” Burchett said.
Mulkey says the benefits include dynamic quality of service (QoS) and IP failover.
“A customer who’s got a 30-person location can get the benefits that a giant enterprise could get from BGP, where they have a single IP block that works over all of their underlying Internet connections,” he said. “That enables seamless failover of all their applications, not just high priority apps like voice.”
Mulkey and Burchett note that Bigleaf has its own core network, which gives it full control over customers’ sensitive traffic and key business applications.
Bigleaf’s Joel Mulkey
“The core of our network is a platform that we operate. We own the hardware. We collocate the servers and routers and data centers. It’s under our full control,” Mulkey said.
The differentiator that sticks out the most is Bigleaf’s approach to security. Some vendors, such as Cato Networks,offer a built-in security platform, and others, such as VeloCloud, have security technology partner programs. But Bigleaf aims to place its SD-WAN between the customer’s existing firewall and ISP connection. The “zero-breach provisioning” is meant to work within …
… the client’s ideal security environment.
“A lot of SD-WAN companies today have tried to DIY an all-in-one solution, kind of the home-theater-in-a-box for SD-WAN plus security. We’ve taken a very different approach, saying, ‘There [are] lots of companies out there innovating in security. They’ve invested huge dollars. We’re not going to try to compete with them,'” Mulkey said. “Let’s let them function as they should. Let customers choose that Palo Alto or Fortinet or WatchGuard firewall, but we’re going to be very complimentary to it. We’ll sit outside of it, and the customer doesn’t have to touch the configuration of it. It’s a very clean install, and we look to their network like an open internet connection.”
This is one of the reasons why Bigleaf labels itself a “plug-n-play” provider.
“The sad thing is, everyone says they do zero-touch provisioning. But the problem is, it doesn’t work at all when there’s an existing security solution they have to be compatible with,” Mulkey said.
Although Mulkey and Burchett tout their product’s ease-of-use and flexibility, they acknowledge that each vendor has pros and cons. They say partners and customers must consider the importance of the use case — a sentiment Bill Kleyman expressed in last week’s column. Bigleaf brands itself as the solution that best serves customers who need to run a line of business application to a public cloud or SaaS environment.
Burchett says partners and investors have rewarded Bigleaf for its decision to specialize and capture particular use cases.
“When we got started in the early days, we made a conscious decision that we didn’t want to do too many things for our customers and be mediocre at some of it,” he said. “We wanted to take the things that we knew we could excel at and then complement others with a similar focus. That’s why the channel is so important to us; because the channel is the best means to bring all of those solutions together for today’s business customer.”
A Partner Perspective
Riverbed Technology drastically changed its channel program, shifting from competency-based rewards to performance-based awards. Partners will spend less time earn time earning and maintaining certifications and more time on customer acquisition and utilizing the entirety of Riverbed’s technology portfolio.
We spoke to Bernard Westwood, vice president of technology operations for BlueAlly, about his company’s experiences with SD-WAN. BlueAlly began partnering with Riverbed in 2005 and has spent multiple years in the vendor’s top partner tier.
Westwood says Riverbed’s WAN optimization and network visibility offerings are currently the most popular among customers, but SD-WAN is gaining popularity. He compares the technology to cloud, which brought benefits that were often entangled with …
… marketing hype.
“Years ago, when everything was going to the cloud, there was a lot of mystery and confusion in the space. That’s why I think it took a long time for adoption to happen. Past that initial phase of that confusion, we’re starting to see some of the different technologies out there and customers getting comfortable trying it out and starting [to invest] in that technology,” Westwood said.
He reports increased interest and understanding from buyers — a big improvement from 12 months prior.
“There’s a lot of excitement around the vendor side, but from a customer perspective what we’ve seen is, sometimes it creates a lot of confusion,” he said. “There [are] so many choices and so many vendors. What is it really going to mean value-wise for the customer?”
Perugini’s hiring comes little more than a month after Aryaka hired Mike Hoffman, who worked alongside Perugini at Big Switch and Gigamon. The major commonality between the two is that they were both part of Gigamon when it filed for IPO in 2013.
Hitachi will use NTT Communications’ SD-WAN solution for its global network. The solution will be in 1,000 Japanese offices. See the announcement.
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