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SD-WAN Roundup: Versa, CommandLink Talk SASE, SD-WAN’s Third Wave

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Global WAN

SASE is going to complement SD-WAN, not replace it, according to Versa Networks chief marketing officer Michael Wood.

Wood, whose company unveiled a SASE solution back in June, said the SD-WAN market has moved past its initial two phases. The “infancy” phase featured a few select pure-play startups like Versa and VeloCloud. Then came the “wave of insanity” where vendors rushed to identify themselves as SD-WAN providers.

Versa's Michael Wood

Versa’s Michael Wood

“I think now we’ve hit wave three, which I would call a wave of reality,” Wood said.

And this wave brings us to the secure access service edge (SASE).

Although the SD-WAN industry has been buzzing about security for the last few years, Wood said the topic has reached a new level of importance. For example, the enlarged remote workforce is raising red flags as the attack surface moves into people’s homes.

“The expansion of that perimeter has created a lot of threats,” Wood said. “The home is now the hacker’s paradise because that’s the weakest link.”

Wood noted that the SASE market to some extent is imitating the evolution SD-WAN made. Some 80 vendors were calling themselves SD-WAN providers after the market exited its infancy, despite the fact that many of them only provided WAN optimization or another ancillary technology. We’ve seen major SD-WAN consolidation in 2020, with larger companies buying Silver Peak, CloudGenix and Elfiq Networks.

Now SASE is having its moment. The term has enraptured the networking industry since Gartner coined it last year. Cato Networks, Open Systems and other vendors have fully embraced a SASE provider identity. And consolidation is starting, as Fortinet recently bought the SASE provider Opaq Networks.

A New Era?

So if SASE is all the rage, does that mean it replaces SD-WAN?

Wood says no.

Ness, Jason_CommandLink

CommandLink’s Jason Ness

“My view is that secure SD-WAN on-premises and in the cloud provides the foundation for SASE,” he said.

SASE in its essence isn’t even new, according to CommandLink CEO Jason Ness. He described SASE as a new term to describe an existing set of capabilities. But SASE is entering into more conversations because of SD-WAN’s limitations. Ness, whose company integrated Versa into its platform, said a glaring security gap exists within most SD-WAN vendors. And the disparity occurs because of the decision to separate networking and security, Ness said.

“When you segment security from SD-WAN, depending on how you’re building that architecture, you’re increasing complexity. And when you increase complexity in an engineering model, you’re creating more variables for problems, more points of failure, more configuration sprawl,” Ness said.

A recent IDG Research/Masergy study agreed about ending the segmentation. Survey respondents overwhelmingly (91%) said they were interested in converging SD-WAN and security.

According to Wood, the SASE customer conversation revolves a few key areas SD-WAN has not yet addressed.

“Businesses have deployed SD-WAN and found that it was missing scale; it was missing security; it was missing multitenancy,” Wood said. “And larger businesses are [saying], ‘If I want to deploy SD-WAN, I need to have these capabilities.”

Ness said the most common customer feedback revolves less around a specific technology and more so around end results. That could mean getting more bandwidth for their employees or consolidating their vendors.

“The customer isn’t reaching out and saying, ‘I want SASE,’ even if they’re saying, ‘I want SD-WAN.’ They’re looking for successful outcomes,” Ness said.

Partners and SASE

Wood pointed out a few key benefits to partners. One, it solves a security problem that customers commonly ask about. Second, the SaaS model creates a low barrier-to-entry. Furthermore, the model allows partners to scale the solution easily.

Ness said SASE offers the chance to eliminate vendor sprawl that has been increasing over the last decade. He said telco M&A made single-source companies more and more difficult for partners to find.

“They had to start looking at more point vendors. And those point vendors didn’t just put a strain on the customer’s business because the successful outcomes are difficult with a bunch of different vendors duct-taped together,” Ness said. “They put a lot of strain on the channel partner’s business. Because the channel partner, who is really not an integrator, had to start becoming the person who was trying to fabric these solutions together with four, five, six, seven — maybe 10 different vendors.”

Not only did the partner’s job become …

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