Who Was The First SD-WAN Vendor?

As Gartner notes in its recent Technology Overview for SD-WAN, with Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions, customers “can achieve cost savings, increased agility and simplification.”

When we started Talari, we originally called what we do Adaptive Private Networking (APN) – the word “adaptive” being key. Along the way, we’ve referred to the virtual WAN overlay created as WAN Virtualization; several other vendors followed our lead and also now use this terminology.  Today, we’ve adopted the industry parlance of the Software-Defined WAN. Talari was the first – and until recently, the only – vendor of reliable SD-WAN solutions. WAN reliability, and delivering application performance predictability, even when using “pretty good” but unreliable Internet connections – is key.

SD-WANs are “hot” now, but who was the first SD-WAN vendor?  Well, that’s actually quite difficult to say – and very much depends on what things you assert are critical components of a SD-WAN offering.

If you don’t care about reliability at all, then you’d have to say that the first software defined WANs enabling the Internet as WAN were delivered by the first IPSec VPN vendors – i.e. Checkpoint, Cisco, NetScreen and their competitors – about 20 years ago! Yet no one would really call these SD-WAN solutions.

Routers have been able to use multiple WAN connections simultaneously – including multiple IPsec connections using multiple Internet links – for more than 15 years.  But these were (and are) too difficult to use, and did not deliver application performance predictability when using Internet links.  Probably no one would call these solutions software defined WANs.

WAN optimization products have had the ability to use multiple (well ok, most of them could only use two!) links for almost 10 years. While somewhat easier to configure than routers, they still did not deliver predictable application performance for any traffic using Internet links. To this day, few customers use the very limited multi-link capabilities of these products.

When Talari started delivering our production systems more than 6 years ago, we were the first SD-WAN to deliver reliability and application performance predictability, leveraging multiple public Internet connections and offering true hybrid WANs – either combining MPLS networks with Internet connections, or using only Internet connectivity.  We were years ahead of others in offering capabilities now considered integral to a complete SD-WAN solution: a software defined virtual network overlay supporting multiple, disparate WAN links per location, and a centralized controller to configure the entire WAN with centralized policy administration, for example.

Is being offered as a fully managed monthly service exclusively over the Internet a mandatory component of an SD-WAN solution?  Most people (Gartner included) would say no, but a few self-interested startups might beg to differ. Aryaka, while they did not invent the SD-WAN (as they’ve recently claimed), a few years ago did introduce the first cloud-delivered SD-WAN service, offering WAN as a Service entirely using the public Internet.  And there is no doubt that leveraging colocation facilities, as Aryaka does, is a good idea, especially for accessing SaaS and public cloud services.  However, Aryaka doesn’t truly support multiple active connections at customer locations and cannot deliver the application performance predictability large enterprise expects, especially for real-time applications like VoIP and videoconferencing. Aryaka also doesn’t deliver a truly mixed hybrid WAN using both MPLS and Internet links simultaneously to connect between any two locations.

As noted, in the last 12 months SD-WANs have become “hot”.  We at Talari very much welcome the spotlight now shined on the space.  Folks should be aware, however, that while there are many vendors who claim to do SD-WANs, most of them do not deliver enterprise-class reliable SD-WANs. Most of these solutions simply do not deliver the union of network and session uptime plus predictability of application performance that enterprises have come to expect from their MPLS WANs.

Today there are two other vendors also offering – or at the least, claiming to offer – reliable SD-WAN solutions: VeloCloud and Silver Peak. VeloCloud’s is “cloud-delivered”, as-a-service, addressing the “reliable” part using multiple Internet links that Aryaka does not, but still not offering a practical solution for a mixed hybrid MPLS-plus-Internet WAN.  VeloCloud is very new to the market, so how they do on quality and scalability very much remain to be seen, but smaller customers without an expensive MPLS network looking for a fully managed solution might want to take a look.

Silver Peak’s SD-WAN offering is also very new to the market, and for all intents and purposes is tied to the Silver Peak WAN Optimization product. And how well the solution performs also remains to be seen.  They are, however, clearly marketing the same benefits that Talari has touted – and delivered(!) – for years.  If you’ve got a large Silver Peak deployment today, you certainly owe it to yourself to check out their SD-WAN offering.

Both Silver Peak’s and VeloCloud’s solutions are new, and your favorite Talari salesperson, solutions architect or partner can give you a lot more detail on why the Talari solution is superior: better scalability, greater reliability, far more reference accounts (at scale), sub-second response, single flows spanning multiple links, compatibility with existing WAN Optimization deployments, etc. But kudos to those two vendors for at least attempting to address the reliability and application performance predictability issues that Talari’s customers will tell you are critical for a successful SD-WAN deployment. Most other vendors simply don’t compete at all at providing this absolutely critical capability.

So who was the first SD-WAN vendor?  That’s difficult to say.  But there’s no doubt that Talari was the first reliable SD-WAN vendor, and that even now there are only a small handful of SD-WAN solutions that can deliver the reliability and application performance predictability that enterprise IT managers and their users expect.

Make sure your SD-WAN vendor is one of them!

Categories: Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN), Application Performance/Application Quality, Internet as WAN (MPLS Alternatives), Hybrid WAN

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