We’re on the cusp of a new decade, and everyone is talking about SD-WAN. Here’s what you need to know about this cutting-edge technology heading into 2020

Executive Summary

Organizations across all vertical markets are turning to SD-WAN to simplify global networks, improve WAN performance, lower costs and streamline management.

According to Quadrant, the SD-WAN market is expected to continue growing at a compound annual growth rate of 56.1 percent (2018-2023), and it’s on pace to exceed $12 billion. Over this stretch, Quadrant says, North America will provide the highest business opportunities for SD-WAN vendors. Currently, North America holds 83 percent of the global SD-WAN market with Asia Pacific and EMEA also gaining market traction.

The technology is widely appealing to enterprises that are looking to address connectivity to on-premises and cloud applications. This is fueling market growth. According to Gartner, there are now more than 60 vendors in the global WAN edge market, combining technologies like SD-WAN, WAN optimization, edge security and branch office routing.
Looking ahead over the next decade, Gartner predicts that WAN edge and security will converge into a single market, which is being referred to as Secure Access Service Edge (SASE).

Gartner maintains that in order to continue to grow in this rapidly evolving market, vendors should transform their delivery model and enhance their product portfolio. SASE adoption, which will be delivered as an XaaS offering, aims to make device-centric and traditional Cloud Service Provider (CSP) offerings/business models obsolete.

Multapplied Networks Inc. (MNI) is a Vancouver-based provider of white-label software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) services. Founded in 2012, MNI has seen SD-WAN progress through all levels of its bell curve, from its very early days to its current status as a leading enterprise networking technology.

In this whitepaper, we’ll share some of our insights in order to get you up to speed on SD-WAN.

You’ll learn:

• The fundamental components of SD-WAN;
• The link between the Internet of Things (IoT) and SD-WAN;
• Why SD-WAN is a technology, and not a product;
• How to use the internet to enable private, multi-site networking;
• Some of the leading players in the diverse SD-WAN ecosystem; and
• MNI’s unique approach to SD-WAN.

Let’s get started.

First things first: SD-WAN Basics

If you’re new to the concept of SD-WAN, here’s some good news: You don’t have to be an IT wizard to understand how it works. After all, SD-WAN is all about keeping enterprise networking simple for service providers and their customers.

So, how can a service provider actually use SD-WAN?

Service providers can use SD-WAN to set up virtual networks for global customers. SD-WAN involves decoupling networking hardware from its control plane, removing the dependency between underlying hardware andall management functions.

A virtual network is one that is entirely software-based, enabling customers to establish dynamic, agile environments for deploying applications. Virtual networks can be easily configured, distributed and manipulated without bulky—and expensive—physical networking hardware. SD-WAN is extremely cost-effective, and easy to manage. And if you go the white label route, it can also be immensely profitable. We’ll get to that in a bit.

First, understand that with SD-WAN the end goal is a private wide area network (PWAN), where multiple branch locations can share applications securely and reliably. What’s more, SD-WAN can also serve as a secure on-ramp, providing always-on connectivity between MSP cloud services and customer sites.

In other words, service providers can use SD-WAN as a virtual backbone to ensure that customers never lose connectivity to their core cloud services. This on-ramp is best achieved by leveraging multiple connections, from multiple service providers.

Next, let’s examine why so many businesses are now embracing new application architectures and cloud-based deployment models, and rushing to modernize their WAN edge infrastructure.

IoT is Changing The Game

The world is changing as more and more devices are becoming IP-enabled. This phenomenon, commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), is growing at a rapid pace, with more than 64 billion IoT devices expected to be in use by as soon as 2025—up from 9 billion in 2017, and 10 billion in 2018.

Many businesses are rushing into IoT deployments, however, without fully understanding how the increase in traffic will impact their networks. In fact, in one study, 60 percent of respondents claimed that IoT deployments look good on paper, yet prove to be more complex than expected.

The fact is that IoT deployments require real-time visibility, enhanced security and predictable amounts of bandwidth. SD-WAN helps businesses achieve all of these needs, providing the stability and peace of mind that’s needed to move forward with next-generation IoT rollouts.

Interestingly, what we’re finding is that some customers are hesitant to move forward with SD-WAN because it seems like a massive undertaking and one that requires completely overhauling your network. As it turns out, the opposite is actually true.

This leads us to our next point:

SD-WAN is Simply An Overlay

SD-WAN doesn’t require any backend construction or hardware installation (other than connecting a box at each branch location). At the end of the day, SD-WAN is simply an over-the-top connectivity solution that relies on a variety of existing 4G LTE, broadband or MPLS services to function.

You may be surprised to learn that SD-WAN runs on the public internet. But as the internet has increased in speed and reliability in recent years, this has made private, multi-site networking over the internet completely viable. And it’s going to get even better as we approach the 5G era.

“Internet access coverage and speeds continue to expand with fiber, Ethernet, cable and xDSL,” explains Gartner in its 2019 Strategic Roadmap for Networking report. “Enterprises should also focus on 5G solutions for branch connectivity as more coverage is available from the carriers. With the reduced latency and significant bandwidth available, we expect 5G to play a meaningful role in enterprise branch access. There are also some well-funded low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations that are expected to become operational in the near future, which will offer better coverage at wireline-type latency.”

Yet, while SD-WAN is an overlay for existing connectivity services, be sure to keep the following in mind:

SD-WAN is a Technology Solution, NOT a product!

As we mentioned, you do need to deploy a small SD-WAN box at the customer premise. This can make SD-WAN seem like a standard product that you would purchase from a warehouse.

SD-WAN, though, is not a product. It’s much more than that. SD-WAN is a technology, a methodology, and a solution that can essentially give any business connectivity superpowers—meaning the ability to enable telco-like services without the “big iron” and major fiber investments that telcos have traditionally had to make.

Due to the fact that SD-WAN is a technology and not a product, it’s also critical to understand all of its various use cases.

“A hammer can be great for building or destroying things, but it’s not so great for a task like pottery. Likewise, with SD-WAN, various vendors tend to have different platforms with different features and strengths, making some better suited than others depending on what you are trying to do. We recommend focusing on the use-case and business outcomes that you want to achieve. In this regard, an evaluation of SD-WAN platforms should start with understanding what you want to achieve, AND WHY. Without the “why” and associated operational and business results, vendor comparisons become a comparison of feature matrices without understanding why certain features are more important than others.”

-Geoff Hultin, President at Multapplied Networks Inc.

Cisco, for instance, provides an SD-WAN product with proven scalability, rich segmentation and routing functionality. However, it lacks advanced security, and clients are often confused by Cisco’s broad array of products and features. At the same time, a product like Riverbed lacks SD-WAN features which can make it easier to use. However, it’s very expensive; you ultimately end up getting less for more .while getting a service that natively includes only basic stateful firewall capabilities).

Navigating the SD-WAN Landscape

Some of the vendors below are primarily selling hardware and licensing. Others are selling a private networking, essentially duplicating the carrier networks. Some give options to own a gateway and control the offer, depending on your size.

But remember, define your use-cases in advance by asking yourself the following questions:

• Why do you want SD-WAN?
• What will it deliver for you?
• How will it deliver those results?
• What features do you truly need? (versus those that are nice-to-have).

Here is a breakdown of some of the leading SD-WAN vendors on the market:

Cisco

Cisco SD-WAN powered by Viptela should be shortlisted for all WAN edge opportunities across the world. With this service, you’ll find Viptela’s strong segmentation and routing, which complement Cisco’s leading services like cloud-based unified threat management (UTM), vBranch and virtual private network (VPN).

Keep in mind, though, that you won’t be dealing with a single company which will complicate things. Since acquiring Viptela, for instance, features have been unbundled which many customers find irritating. Pricing, too, has been inconsistent. And plans to integrate legacy Integrated Services Router (ISR) features into vEdge code, and integrate vEdge Manager into DNA Center, could ultimately reduce the reliability and continuity of Viptela products. Only time will tell how this relationship will play out.

Peplink

Peplink offers enterprise and industrial-grade WiFi, specializing in WANs where wireless connectivity is key. The company has strong wireless networking capabilities, and can support a large number of links on its platform. Peplink should be considered by clients that demand wireless requirements, are in bandwidth-constrained environments, or require advanced mobile networking services.

Peplink, however, is small and confined by its limited sales channels. This can make it difficult to even obtain the product. Plus, the company only has a limited number of active personnel with deep knowledge of the product. So expect limited support with Peplink.

Riverbed

One of Riverbed’s biggest selling points is their partnership with Microsoft, which enables the company to use the Azure backbone and cloud gateways for its SD-WAN as-a-Service offering. Riverbed is a company with substantial experience in managing large-scale WAN and enterprise applications, and features an integrated appliance for a simple, one-click deployment.

Again, though, Riverbed falls short in features like link remediation and path conditioning. The company is also known for its higher pricing and lacks a secure web gateway (SWG). It also doesn’t come with any vendor-hosted cloud gateways.

In June 2019, Riverbed has partnered with Versa Networks, essentially conceding that their internal efforts are SD-WAN were not competitive. This partnership fills a WAN Optimization gap for Versa as well.

Silver Peak

Silver Peak’s EdgeConnect offers an SD-WAN service defined by strong path conditioning, and integrations with numerous security vendors (like CheckPoint, Palo Alto, and Zscaler). Its strength lies in its real-time internet path intelligence, link bonding and optional integrated WAN Optimization Controller (WOC) path conditioning, combined with WAN optimization. Silver Peak also has a strong grasp of the SD-WAN market, with a solid understanding of customer deployment needs. Further, its EdgeConnect service is available as a virtual appliance in AWS, Azure, Oracle cloud and Google Cloud.

EdgeConnect, though, lacks an internal next-generation firewall (NFGW) meaning one must be added and managed separately. It also lacks cloud-resident gateways or SD-WAN-as-a-Service offering, making it less attractive from a management and cost perspective.

Versa

With Versa, you will find an intuitive and application graphical user interface (GUI), as well as predefined templates. They also enable you to white-label their offering. Versa provides advanced security features including support for NGFW, mean opinion-score (MOS)-based steering, SaaS acceleration, forward error correction (FEC), and more. Service Providers such as CenturyLink, Colt, Verizon, Tata and others have General Availability (GA) based on Versa, indicating product stability and scalability.

Downsides include limited adoption in large-scale deployment beyond 1,000 branches, and limited adoption outside of North America. The company also lacks full WAN optimization, and publicly available cloud gateways offered as a managed service.

Vmware

Vmware, who purchase VeloCloud in 2012, has a dynamic optimization capability that improves application performance across degraded links, including real-time apps such as voice, even in single-link scenarios.

The service, however, lacks NGFW and secure web gateways in its products, which are desired by global companies and companies doing direct internet offload. Compared to other vendors, too, Vmware has less experience supporting complex WAN edge deployments.

Multapplied Networks Inc.

Do you notice any similarities in the above-mentioned vendors? None of them focus on providing a true “do it yourself” approach to SD-WAN like you will find at MNI. With Multapplied, you can access white label, white box SD-WAN that gives you complete independence and freedom to market, sell and deploy connectivity to your customer base.

Instead of reselling a vendor’s SD-WAN service, you can bring your own privately branded SD-WAN service to market through MNI.

MNI is ideal for service providers that seek to control their own pricing and markup; access to unlimited core network nodes; and the final say regarding all infrastructure.

Multapplied SD-WAN gives you the following:

• >500% ROI over two years with payback in less than 12 months
• 10x faster to deploy than traditional VPN solutions
• Unlimited core software and unlimited bandwidth licensing
• Multi-tenancy
• White box solution
• Subscription-based pricing
• End-to-end visibility and control
• Ability to host/deploy other services using containerization technologies
• & more

Remember—the choice is yours. At the end of the day, your decision should be driven by the following factors:

• How much you want to pay for SD-WAN
• How much you want to earn from SD-WAN
• The amount of flexibility your customers require and
• How you want to present your brand to your customers.

To learn more about how MNI is right for your business and customers, contact MNI today.