SD-WAN Roundup: SimpleWAN Surprised VMware, Not Cisco, Bought VeloCloud

James Anderson

James Anderson

When so many companies are promoting this shiny new product called “SD-WAN,” it can be difficult to determine how their offerings actually differ from each other.

Channel Partners interviewed SimpleWAN, a Phoenix-based company that is working to prove its unique position in the software-defined networking market. CEO Erik Knight spoke at the Tech+Connect Conference, hosted by the Alliance Partners last week, warning partners that SD-WAN is a marketing term that can confuse customers. For Knight, SD-WAN is a subcategory of software-defined networking and differs very much between what SimpleWAN and its competitors offer. Knight says his company’s approach does not use the “backhaul model” that is popular with SD-WAN providers.

SimpleWAN's Erik Knight

SimpleWAN’s Erik Knight

“They’re scooping up the traffic on the local network, and they’re shipping it over some kind of tunnel across generally multiple connections, and then they’re getting access to it from a data center. We actually use it as a control module. The intelligence is in our data centers, but it’s telling our boxes how to perform in the world, and the boxes are feeding it back data and things like that,” Knight said.

Knight says his company’s SD-WAN play attempts to resemble MPLS and tries to avoid the added latency that comes with backhauling data to data centers.

“It introduces, we believe, more problems. All of SD-WAN is a good model, but we believe that adds a layer of complexity and a loss of reliability. Because at the end of the day, if the data center goes down … they’re done,” he said.

Brian Perdue, vice president of sales for SimpleWAN, adds that the company has a higher value proposition as a result of not charging for backhauling traffic.

“Customers are doubling their bandwidth requirement every 2-3 years because of IoT,” Perdue said. “At the end of the day, SD-WAN deployments are charging for that throughput. Five years from now, people might not be able to afford it.”

Knight founded SimpleWAN in 2014 after spinning it off from COMVOICE, a hosted VoIP company that Jive Communications acquired. SimpleWAN sells through wholesale and through six master agents. Knight tells Channel Partners that the company is focused on growing its indirect sales after launching its channel program a year ago.

The company’s ideal customer has between one and 50 employees and lacks an onsite IT team. Moreover, these clients rarely come to SimpleWAN asking for SD-WAN.

“They’re not saying, ‘Oh, how do I have SD-WAN?’ There’s another driver. ‘Hey, I need to turn up guest Wi-Fi. I need to get managed Wi-Fi. I need PCI compliance,'” Knight said.


The media frenzy surrounding VMware‘s purchase of SD-WAN provider VeloCloud has quieted since the announcement on Nov. 2.

Knight of rival SimpleWAN says he was surprised by the acquisition, considering that Cisco had invested millions of dollars into VeloCloud.

“So for Cisco to buy Viptela and then for VMware to buy VeloCloud — we were actually really shocked. We expected that Cisco was going to pony up and do that acquisition,” Knight said. “As a whole, I think they’re a great group over there. They’ve had some really good success. This is a new area for [VMware]. Just like any acquisition, I think there’s going to be some stumbling. But I think in the end the vision for it is: VMware needs the technology to connect their clients to their cloud.”

Star2Star, which recently teamed up with VeloCloud for network enhancements on its hosted unified communications platform, said in a blog that Cisco may …

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