The market for software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) continues to boom. And we’re starting to see the technology being coupled with wireless capabilities to provide a more complete “branch in a box” offering, said Mike Fratto, a research director at Current Analysis.
“There has been a cycle of vendors wanting to come out with this one box for the branch that’s going to do anything, including SD-WAN, security, storage, and routing,” Fratto said. And in order to offer wireless connectivity for local area networks (LANs) in branch offices, WiFi needs to be included.
Although SD-WAN offerings don’t depend on the wireless technology, it’s a nice way to offer customers additional functionality to their SD-WAN technology.
With the right technology, WiFi could technically be used to connect branch offices by managing the movement of traffic remotely from the cloud, which would make it act very similar to SD-WAN technology, said Cliff Grossner, a senior analyst at IHS Markit.
“With Riverbed, they can now bake these capabilities in their own offering,” Fratto said. “It makes sense if they’re targeting smaller offices and locations, but what it really gives them is the ability to go to a customer site and provide them with SD-WAN, wireless connectivity, and wired connectivity and wrap that around management capabilities for a complete solution.”
When it comes to the overall SD-WAN market, Fratto doesn’t think that WiFi will be groundbreaking, but in the branch, it’s a nice value-add for SD-WAN vendors that are looking to offer wireless connectivity.
Similarly, Jim Duffy, a senior analyst for 451 Research, said that vendors who supply infrastructure to branch offices are looking to be a single source of orchestration for the branch network, which includes wireless.
“Cisco probably has the lead on this, but competition is coming up quickly,” Duffy said. “Everyone is looking to be an alternative to Cisco to offer their customers another option.” Other SD-WAN vendors, including VeloCloud and Viptela, also have wireless capabilities baked into their SD-WAN systems.
In terms of these two markets converging, “I see WAN and wireless all coming together for the broader branch office network opportunity — either through acquisitions or strategic partnerships,” Duffy said.
This will most likely happen through the larger SD-WAN players going after the smaller wireless players or vice versa with larger wireless players buying smaller SD-WAN vendors, he added.
However, Fratto doesn’t expect much consolidation in these markets anytime soon. He noted there isn’t one clear leader in either space, and there aren’t many established wireless vendors left on the market other than Aerohive or Ubiquity.
“I don’t think [SD-WAN] vendors will look into WiFi…SD-WAN pure-plays are more likely to look at working with carrier partners to provide carrier NFV software so they can offer SD-WAN solutions that are integrated into their networks,” Grossner said. “The WiFi market has been around for a long time and I don’t think there’s room for new entrants. And just because WiFi can be attached to SD-WAN doesn’t give the WiFi market a new opportunity.”
Looking at the SD-WAN market as a whole, there will be more consolidation, but not until next year, Fratto said. Duffy also noted that more vendors in various markets will likely start offering SD-WAN.
For example, security company Fortinet claims that it rolled out an SD-WAN service. “If you’re a business in branch networking, you should really be thinking about SD-WAN,” Fratto said. “If a company buys an SD-WAN product that has security built-in, then they don’t need a lot of other stuff that they already have.”
“I think the market is probably going to consolidate in the next 12 to 18 months, and within that period, we’ll see the leaders emerge, and consolidation usually follows,” Grossner said.