Are All SD-WANs Created Equal? Analysts Weigh In



Three technology experts are ironing out the marketing confusion surrounding SD-WAN.

Ovum‘s Brian Washburn, C3‘s Matthew Toth and Eclipse Telecom‘s Kirk Armstrong will be panelists for the “Are All SD-WANs Created Equal” session, part of the SDN conference track at the upcoming Channel Partners Conference & Expo. The panel is on Wednesday, April 18, in Las Vegas.

Channel Partners/Channel Futures spoke to the three gentlemen for a preview on how partners and customers can differentiate among the overwhelming number of SD-WAN vendors and solutions.

Ovum's Brian Washburn

Ovum’s Brian Washburn

The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Channel Partners/Channel Futures: If a vendor says its SD-WAN solution is one-size-fits-all, do you buy that?

Brian Washburn: I buy the 80/20 rule — that most mainstream SD-WAN platforms can be adequate for most enterprise use cases. But it’s much more complicated because SD-WAN isn’t a single specification. There are some common core features SD-WAN should have, but beyond that it’s a collection of tools.

So SD-WAN vendors each have their own unique approaches to applications visibility. Some go deep in areas like network optimization and network security; there are even big differences in cost and licensing models. A vendor example of that definition blurriness is Cisco, which has IWAN, Viptela and Meraki, all of which it calls SD-WAN, all quite different from one another.

If you look at it from the service providers’ perspective: Big providers offering SD-WAN today already support two different platforms, and some have three or more choices — one is generally more high-end and the other more cost-friendly. For enterprises, getting a good SD-WAN platform to match to their needs is just half the challenge. Finding suitable trusted partners that can assist with deployment is the other half. What’s better, the “best-suited” SD-WAN if it’s poorly implemented and supported? Or a “just-good-enough” SD-WAN platform if it’s carefully deployed and tuned to the enterprise’s needs, with a proactive supporting partner?

C3's Matthew Toth

C3’s Matthew Toth

Matthew Toth: Absolutely not. Many vendors come to the table with different strengths. Aryaka’s solution focuses on defeating latency. Cato caters to clients that want an all encompassing SD-WAN-plus-security solution. Bigleaf doesn’t really integrate with MPLS. This is why customers are going to have difficulty in picking a vendor. We at C3 know these ins and outs only because of the frequency of having these conversations with customers and vendors.

Kirk Armstrong: There is a lot of smoke and mirrors in this space right now. There are really a couple general categories that you can fit most of this conversation into. Be it appliance-based – where people just want the ability to blend their edge traffic – an end-to-end solution including the network, or if someone is trying to solve a global transit issue.

CP/CF: Could you name some of the most important factors partners and customers should consider when picking an SD-WAN?

BW: Enterprises need to consider a trusted partner with proven expertise on similar types of SD-WAN deployments; channels need a trusted partner who’s going to have their back for more complex requirements. Enterprises may think they have the necessary in-house expertise to drive their own SD-WAN migration — right up to the point that they encounter …

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