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Gartner released its first Magic Quadrant for WAN Edge Infrastructure a few weeks ago. The report identifies three vendors — VMware, Cisco and Silver Peak — as being in its “leadership” quadrant for SD-WAN, which is one of the hottest segments of the IT sector.
Both VMware and Silver Peak expect that being a named an industry leader by Gartner will boost their SD-WAN sales efforts given the amount of influence Gartner continues to have with IT leaders. Cisco also stands to benefit, but as the dominant provider of routers it already has relationships with thousands of customers.
The report also predicts that by 2023 more than 90 percent of WAN edge infrastructure refresh initiatives will be based on virtualized customer premises equipment (vCPE) platforms or SD-WAN software/appliances.
Most IT leaders agree that enterprises need to replace legacy routers at the WAN edge. What’s surprising is that each of the companies identified as leaders by Gartner in its Magic Quadrant report has a very different strategy.
For example, VMware acquired VeloCloud a year ago. The acquisition was part of a larger initiative to flatten networking environments by integrating SD-WAN appliances with VMware’s networking virtualization overlay that is based on its NSX software. Gartner estimates VMware now has 3,000 WAN edge customers that have deployed either a physical VeloCloud appliance or installed VeloCloud software on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure public cloud.
Gartner also identified VMware’s strengths as its ability to dynamically optimize application performance as different WAN links degrade and the fact that it has integrated a network firewall within its offering to enable microsegmentation. Gartner also said in its report that VMware is committed to adding more intent-based networking capabilities in the next 18 months.
“This is about pushing network virtualization to the network edge,” said Sanjay Uppal, vice president and general manager for the VeloCloud business unit at VMware.
On the downside, Gartner notes VMware lacks WAN optimization, next-generation firewall software for applications, and secure web gateways. Gartner also raises concerns about VMware’s ability to support SD-WAN implementations at scale.
Joining VMware in the leadership quadrant is Silver Peak, which Gartner estimates also has approximately 3,000 customers for its Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN appliances deployed as either a physical appliance or on a virtual machine. Gartner notes that Silver Peak also has about 1,000 customers that have licensed the company’s Unity Orchestrator management software.
Gartner says one of Silver Peak’s strong points is its real-time internet path intelligence and its ability to dynamically shift network traffic, path conditioning, and link bonding. It also offers an optional integrated WAN optimization controller. Silver Peak has integrated its SD-WAN platform with security offerings from Check Point, Fortinet, Palo Alto Networks, and Zscaler.
Silver Peak is also committed to investing in machine learning to further automate the management of SD-WANs, said Damon Ennis, senior vice president for products at Silver Peak. Ennis added that it will only be the market leaders that will have the financial resources required to make investments in various forms of artificial intelligence.
About half of the SD-WAN deployments will be delivered as a managed service, while the rest of the market will be made up of instances of SD-WANs implemented by internal IT organizations, Ennis said.
“There will also be a lot of hybrid scenarios where SD-WANs are co-managed,” he added.
Gartner said Silver Peak weaknesses include the lack of a built-in next-generation firewall software and cloud-resident gateways. Gartner also questioned the company’s ability to support deployments at scale.
Both VMware and Silver Peak are trying to supplant Cisco, which today dominates the traditional router category. Cisco responded to the rise of SD-WANs by acquiring Viptela. Cisco offers Viptela’s SD-WAN as a layer of software that is part of its latest Cisco ISR routers. Cisco also provides SD-WAN capabilities with its Meraki family of wireless networking access points.
Gartner notes that there are approximately 10,000 customers that have deployed a Cisco router, which Cisco plans to leverage to more aggressively drive adoption of SD-WAN software, said Scott Harrell, SVP and GM of Cisco’s Enterprise Networking Business. “We have an unfair advantage,” he said.
Cisco also just announced it will be layering security services on top of its platforms to reduce the total cost of deploying SD-WANs.
So far Cisco has about 1,000 customers that have adopted its Viptela offering. The company’s strengths cited by Gartner include proven scalability with rich segmentation and routing capabilities and a commitment to providing increased levels of automation and uniform policy management across multi-cloud environments.
On the downside, Gartner noted Cisco’s product portfolio may be confusing to customers. Its offering spans multiple code bases and management frameworks that have limited integration with one another. Gartner said it does not anticipate this issue to be alleviated in the next 12 months. Gartner also notes that plans to integrate legacy ISR features into the vEdge code and integration of vEdge Manager into Cisco DNA Center management framework could impact the reliability and continuity of the Viptela product platforms going forward.
Collectively, Gartner estimates the market leaders in this category have about 7,000 customers. Clearly, when it comes to WAN Edge infrastructure it’s still early days. There are over 60 vendors providing some type of SD-WAN capability.