Cato Networks is looking to disrupt the SD-WAN market by adding “brains” to the middle transport mile via software and the cloud. (Given that the SD-WAN companies are disruptors for traditional MPLS services, does that make Cato a re-disruptor?)
Tel Aviv-based Cato Networks plans on formally launching itself and its product(s) sometime around February. Until then, it’s not talking publicly about exactly how this re-disruption works. The company is closing in on beta tests of its software near the end of the current fourth quarter with six to a dozen partners and service providers, says Yishay Yovel, vice president of marketing.
The company was co-founded in December by CEO Shlomo Kramer and CTO Gur Shatz. Given that Kramer has a deep background in network security, it’s no surprise that it bills itself as a network security-as-a-service company, but Yovel says Cato is also looking at solving the middle-mile transport riddle that was primarily the domain of MPLS for the past 20 years and is becoming the stomping grounds of SD-WAN, or hybrid WAN companies.
Yovel says the problems with MPLS include that it’s an expensive connectivity option across the WAN, especially for smaller enterprise customers that may be overpaying to get their data from Point A to Point B. Even for larger enterprises, guaranteed service levels for MPLS can eat into IT networking budgets. The pluses for MPLS include SLAs for things like latency.
The other option for enterprises is to use unmanaged Internet connections, which could include multiple hops across the globe and numerous peering agreements with service providers. While Internet connections are fine for watching kitten videos on YouTube, businesses need a more robust, secure option between their endpoints for some of their data.
SD-WAN vendors, which come in various flavors, see an opportunity in managing traffic based on what’s best suited to run on MPLS, or other protocols, and what is suitable for the open Internet.
Yovel says all three options don’t address the issues of the middle mile (although several SD-WAN companies like VeloCloud and Aryaka are offering transport as a service.) Or, as put more bluntly on Cato Networks’ blog: “The SD-WAN approach, in our view is short-sighted.”
That’s because SD-WAN focuses on “managing the existing complexity of the middle mile,” Yovel says. “There’s a root cause here that is happening in the middle of that process, this unmanaged Internet section. If we can put some brains into the middle mile, and manage it better, we believe there’s a way achieve MPLS-like performance” at a much lower cost.
The devil, or God, is in the details that Cato isn’t disclosing.
“You can think of it as cloud-based brains that will provide some level of optimization for Internet connections,” Yovel says.
Yovel says Cato’s founders put seed money into the company, and that it plans a round of funding next month.