SD-WAN: What a Difference a Year Makes

SD-WAN is taking off.

A year ago we announced 100 paying, deployed EdgeConnect SD-WAN customers. Earlier this month, we announced our 400th customer deployment, representing a quadrupling of our SD-WAN customer base in just 12 months.

We are seeing our Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN solution deployed globally, across a wide range of industries including financial services, healthcare, retail, manufacturing and transport. Our customers are simplifying and consolidating their WAN edge infrastructure, reducing operating costs and delivering an improved IT experience to their distributed workforce.

Learning from Our Growth

In the 20 months since we launched EdgeConnect, we have learned a great deal from our customers.

We’ve found most prospects and customers realize that a pure-play SD-WAN product is not going to address the full breadth of their requirements for the WAN edge. Enterprises want the benefits of lower operational costs and greater agility that are promised with SD-WAN, but they don’t want to compromise on performance or security. They are looking to simplify and consolidate edge functionality. On the other hand, they also recognize that SD-WAN is not a simple feature that you simply add-on to a legacy router. A conglomeration of acquired technologies may deliver in terms of check boxes in a paper-based evaluation, but in practice these ‘franken-boxes’ won’t deliver on the savings and simplicity promises of SD-WAN.

Pioneering SD-WAN Innovation and Deployment

At Silver Peak, we have carefully designed our EdgeConnect solution with an SD-WAN fabric as a foundation for a new, router-less WAN edge architecture. We’ve invested heavily in developing and delivering technologies that meet application SLAs over any combination of transport networks, even consumer-grade internet, and pioneered a new consumption model for WAN optimization with our Unity Boost subscription. When we looked at the requirements enterprises have for SaaS optimization and granular internet breakout, we realized that traditional DPI-based application classification was not going to be sufficient. In response, Silver Peak has developed and launched a new application classification approach called First-packet IQ, which leverages machine learning and takes us one step closer to the Self-Driving WAN.

We’ve also heard from customers that they want to be able to segment their branch traffic, and apply different security policies to each segment. For some traffic segments, the EdgeConnect built-in firewall is appropriate. For other segments a cloud firewall like Zscaler is the best approach. And for some specific segments of traffic, our customers want to draw on the deep security stacks of Silver Peak partners like Palo Alto Networks, Fortinet and Check Point Software. To enable this, we’ve complemented our business intent overlays in Unity Orchestrator with granular internet breakout policies, enabling consistent, automated application of segmented security policies across the distributed enterprise, leveraging any combination of security services the customer deems appropriate.

Finally, we’ve learned that our customers want the flexibility to deploy an SD-WAN at their own pace. Some customers are going all-in with a complete transition to a thin, router-less branch architecture replacing legacy routers all together. Some are looking at a more gradual brown field implementation, where they deploy EdgeConnect in line with existing infrastructure. Some are upgrading all sites at once. And some are rolling out a pilot first, with incremental adds over time. In response to these varied requirements, we’ve added, among other things, new BGP routing interoperability to support smooth migrations from a traditional routed WAN edge to an EdgeConnect SD-WAN.

Leading SD-WAN Into The Future

I’m proud of what the team here at Silver Peak has accomplished. We’ve successfully deployed hundreds of customers, across a range industries with different rollout strategies. We’ve applied our learnings and used them to continually innovate to improve our solution. The Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN solution is truly unique – it’s the only comprehensive SD-WAN solution designed from the ground up, to not only deliver on the core promises of an SD-WAN, but to also address the broader performance and security requirements of the new WAN edge. In the next 12 months, I’m looking forward to surpassing our 1,000th customer deployment, and with further innovation, delivering even more value to our EdgeConnect customers.

About the author
David Hughes
David Hughes
David Hughes founded Silver Peak Systems in 2004 after serving a year as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Benchmark Capital. Through 2013 Hughes drove innovation serving as CTO, and then more recently as CEO, leading Silver Peak beyond WAN optimization into the emerging SD-WAN market. Prior to Silver Peak, Hughes served as vice president and general manager at BlueLeaf Networks (2000-2002), where his team developed a unique network switching and transmission system. From 1996 to 2000, Hughes held several positions at Cisco Systems, including director of system architecture for the BPX and MGX product lines, and senior director of product management for the Multi-Service Switching Business Unit. Earlier, Hughes was a key engineering contributor at StrataCom, an early pioneer in frame relay and ATM, which was acquired by Cisco in 1996. Before StrataCom, David worked as an engineer for BNR Japan/Northern Telecom Japan Inc. Hughes has been awarded more than 50 patents in areas including data acceleration, routing and packet switching, control and scheduling algorithms. Hughes earned his PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Wollongong University, Australia, and holds a BE in Electrical Engineering from Auckland University, New Zealand.