February 26, 2018
**Editor’s Note: This is the latest in a series of articles on the state of SD-WAN, featuring perspectives from vendors, analysts and partners. Check out our previous SD-WAN roundup featuring C3 Technology Advisors and Cato Networks.**
We clearly got your attention.
Our previous SD-WAN column struck a nerve with the Channel Partners audience. Matthew Toth of C3 Technology Advisors and Shlomo Kramer of Cato Networks both argued that MPLS does not have a long-term future. The consultancy and vendor vie SD-WAN as a replacement.
“For my customers, the death of MPLS started yesterday,” Toth said. He added that carriers are eager to supplement and preserve the legacy architecture to make capitalize on years of investment.
Kramer told Channel Partners that very few businesses hold a soft spot in their heart for the transport method.
“Quite frankly, when you talk to everybody, long-term they want to replace MPLS, because this is not the fabric that is right for the cloud and mobile area for the future. It’s very rigid, very geography-bound – very. It’s low-capacity and high-priced,” Kramer said.
The article was our most viewed SD-WAN column over the course of our roundup’s short existence. Upstart vendors such as Aryaka seized on the content, but not everyone was impressed.
#MPLS How many of those quoted have a vested interest in promoting SD-WAN as an MPLS killer? All of them? Yep.
They are missing the point. All. Of. Them.
— Mike Fratto (@mfratto_GD) February 6, 2018
There’s clearly a diversity of opinions on this subject among analysts and vendors. A Frost & Sullivan analyst told me he sees continued MPLS growth. Ecessa CEO Mike Siegler “totally disagrees” with the notion that customers see MPLS as the root of their problems.
Ecessa’s Mike Siegler
“I think customers find themselves frustrated that they’re spending money on IT – regardless of what that is – and they still have issues. They either still have voice issues, they still have security issues, they still have connectivity issues, and I think they say (even if it’s metro Ethernet or an MPLS or even T1s), ‘I need something better. I need someone to help me improve this,'” Siegler said. “They’re not saying, ‘I hate my MPLS. I want to get rid of it.’ They’re just saying, ‘I need to solve these network problems.'”
Siegler is not averse to replacement, but his company and other SD-WAN vendors are popular options for customers who want to augment their networks.
For Siegler, there should not be pressure to abandon MPLS.
“We can make any network better,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of customers who have an MPLS. The MPLS lets them down once in a while or isn’t performing where they want it to. We can help them integrate in other low cost bandwidth – be it broadband, cable, whatever – and we can those two circuits better than individually.”
Ecessa has campaigned on the premise of flexibility being its differentiator.
“We’re advocates for: Choose the best connectivity that works for your business, and we can help make that connectivity better,” Siegler said.
The Minnesota-based company labels its portfolio as diverse in offerings and tiered in price, from edge failover and load balancing to data-center appliances. Ecessa calls itself carrier-agnostic — that rivals like VeloCloud Networks, Bigleaf Networks and Talari Networks also claim.
“What we like to say is, we’ll integrate into …
… your existing network, little-to-no change necessary. If you’ve got an MPLS and you like it, you can keep it. If you want to get rid of that MPLS, we can help you do that too,” he said.
Despite that shared claim, Ecessa features a different architecture from other vendors. The offering is premises-based, which is a stark contrast to the companies that use cloud components.
“We kind of come at it old-school,” Siegler said. “We come at it from a perspective of, we have a data plane and a control plane [that] are on-prem, which gives us that maximum flexibility. That architecture drives ease of deployment, because we’re able to integrate into an existing environment. No need to change your IP addressing schemes. No need to change your architecture at the edge.”
SD-WAN and the Channel
Ecessa has been selling through the channel since 2014, operating its own partner program and maintaining master-agent relationships with companies such as Telarus and Sandler Partners. It most recently partnered with BCM One.The company previously sold 100 percent direct before seeing the natural incentives SD-WAN technology offers to partners. The flexibility of SD-WAN lets agents, resellers and managed service providers offer their customers a diverse list of connectivity types from multiple providers.
“It gives back power to the channel. It essentially gives people control back over their networks, and it breaks that connection with the carrier. Whereas before, your WAN was kind of tied to your single provider, and they kind of drove these expensive contracts, and they drove what you chose for technology. SD-WAN gives that power to agents, where they can essentially get creative,” Siegler said.
That doesn’t mean selling SD-WAN will be smooth sailing. Siegler says a cloud of confusion still hovers over the technology. Customers are hearing a cacophony of buzzwords and pitches from vendors, and they don’t know how to decipher which option is best.
Siegler echoes the opinion of previous column interviewee Bill Kleyman, who argued that the use case is king. Every SD-WAN offering has different pros and cons, and the partner must understand how those attributes fit its customer’s networking needs.
Ecessa, for example, has enjoyed success in the categories of banking, finance and health care.
“Each customer’s different, so you really have to go in with that consultative mindset of, ‘Tell me more about your business. What are your needs? What issues are you having?’ And then position SD-WAN in the most appropriate way,” Siegler said.
He says the hype and confusion will continue on for a while longer, as customers mull over what they want. This should be expected as a large of number of vendors – and many of them new to the market – claim the SD-WAN label while offering diverse architecture and feature sets.
So we can extend patience to everyone involved.
“I think it’s going to take time for customers and agents and resellers to find out what wins where,” Siegler said. “We’re going to continue to see that slowly find its own path through the trees, if you will.”
The carrier launched what seems to be an SD-WAN solution — if you don’t read the acronym closely. Verizon Enterprise Solutions announced a solution for software-defined wireless local area networking, SD-WLAN for short. The offering is part of Verizon’s virtual network services (VNS) lineup.
The managed solution uses artificial intelligence from …
… Mist Systems to give the customer visibility and management of the LAN.
Vickie Lonker, Verizon’s vice president of product management and development, called SD-WLAN “the next step in our overall SDN strategy.”
Verizon’s Vickie Lonker
“Our Enterprise users are increasingly using wireless LANs, yet innovation around management of WLANs has not kept pace,” said Lonker. “SD WLAN leverages the advanced intelligence and machine learning offered through Mist Systems’ platform to improve network management and operations while controlling costs.”
Other proposed benefits are more rapid network configuration, increased automation and the use of less hardware.
Verizon has been offering SD-WAN for many years. The company teamed with Cisco’s IWAN in 2015 for a managed services offering and went with Viptela in 2016. The company launched an SD-WAN solution tailored to government agencies in November.
Another MPLS Brawl
The Tel Aviv, Israel-headquartered company was the only company to differ on hybrid networking during a Bridgepointe Technologies panel. The panelists from Tata Communications, Telstra and Masergy by-and-large agreed that SD-WAN will augment MPLS, but Cato’s Shawn McCarthy said increasingly distributed cloud environments will mark the fade-out of the legacy technology.
“MPLS is not going away because it’s low quality,” said McCarthy, who serves as director of sales engineering for the Americas. “It’s high quality, but it doesn’t fit the way we’re doing business today and in the future. That being, said SD-WAN grows out of that cloud disruption.”
Speaking of Panels …
If you’re looking to increase your fill of SD-WAN dialogue, check out the upcoming “Are all SD-WANs created equal?” panel at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo. I’ll be moderating alongside C3’s Matthew Toth, who was the chief troublemaker of our Feb. 6 column. Brian Washburn, principal leader of network transformation and cloud Ovum, will round out the panel. We’ll evaluate vendors’ claims and examine customer use cases.
AT&T globally expanded its SD-WAN Network-Based solution. Here is its full announcement.
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