Barracuda Launches SD-WAN Based on Azure – Thoughts and Takeaways

So more exciting network news as we see Barracuda launching its new CloudGen WAN platform, designed to operate over the Microsoft Azure network.

This matches with Cavell’s prediction for a while now that it was only a matter of time before someone built a network or SD-WAN solution designed to leverage the Azure Global Backbone network. We have already seen platforms leveraging AWS this way, so Azure was a natural step.

Also, this announcement focuses on the priority of improving applications through SD-WAN which beyond generic concepts of a “smarter network” is the true SD-WAN use case. A focus on application performance is not ground-breaking for SD-WAN as that is goal of many vendors already providing the service. However, there is an opportunity for Barracuda here as alignment with Azure makes a lot of sense given the reach of both Office 365 and Teams into enterprises.

Any company that can optimise both the O365 and Teams experience will find a productive place in the Mid-market that relies on these applications daily. We have already seen existing SD-WAN companies, such as Aryaka tap into this with an ExpressRoute partnership into Azure and specific teams messaging.

Based on our research, across the EU SP market, Barracuda has a few hundred partners compared to Microsoft’s thousands, and the thousand or so SPs that actively resell O365. This partnership opens up a lot of potential business for Barracuda with all of those companies looking to both be secure and to optimise Microsoft applications that are already running over Azure.

Digging a bit further down into the announcement, we can see good things, both physical and virtual deployments giving flexibility for businesses with existing hardware, a focus on zero touch and central management – though at this point we haven’t had a chance to look at the portal and its capabilities for managing devices.

Overall, this announcement seems interesting and positive. However, there are two main questions hovering for myself that do not seem accurately explained within the current documents available.

Firstly, the messaging on the Barracuda website, discusses how this technology is SASE ready, and will provide a secure portal for all office locations and remote endpoints. However, within the broader documentation there is not any description of how this solution is will work to secure endpoints specifically if they leave the office site. 

A key factor when considering SASE is providing a service at any location, not specifically tied to an office or a WAN set up – this could be on the move or in a home environment. Without the fuller picture, which is referenced here but not elaborated on, there is potential for buzzword confusion where people see this term and assume it does more than its current does. So, whilst this platform may provide Barracuda’s well-known security, we must ask how this is truly “SASE” and where those provisions for every endpoint device are? If it were a matter of tying the solution to Barracuda’s Web Security Agent, you would expect that would be called out.

Further reinforcing our initial confusion is that again despite the SASE mention, and the implied flexibility of network configuration that implies. There is no clear solution in the documentation that would suit a home worker office except for those incredibly critical workers. The product overview does call out that you can connect home offices with CloudGen, but the lowest solution we can see on the new platform is the T100, which is a 300Mbps device designed for offices of 50-100.

This is quite a contrast for a new launch when we have seen other companies specifically tooling their new SD-WAN platforms to include a smaller device for home + remote sites which few employees. This brings us to our second question, which is that, in a brand new launch, where SASE is called out (and the flexibility that should imply to accommodate mobile and home workers), where is the solution tooled to their needs built into the offering that we would expect to see?

If I seem focused on this topic, it is because my prediction from earlier this year was that most existing and any new SD-WAN providers would either develop or launch a smaller router model with a cellular component that provided SD-WAN or a lighter basic SD-WAN but allowed the home worker to connect to the business network efficiently, and I’m surprised to see a new service launch without a discussion of that at all.

However, before I sound overly harsh, this is a new service, it has only been public for 4 days, so we will not be too critical. It could be we will see documentation of the very sort I am discussing now over the next few weeks. I am just puzzled given the current crisis when everyone is asking “this networking solution seems great but what about my home workers?” that it is not available on launch.

It is worth noting that Barracuda do seem to be offering a free trial of this technology – https://www.barracuda.com/products/cloudgenwan?scroll=lead-form. Though when I signed up to get details about what that would entail, I received a call from a salesperson who freely admitted they didn’t have much data and hadn’t finished their training on the solution yet as it was new. So that does not bode well for the product launch so far! However, I am sure this will be addressed soon.

So, I am left with some questions outstanding that I expect will be answered, some confusion about the lack of specific support for home-workers beyond those who are worth it to get a 50-100-person device. But overall, I am quite optimistic. Many people already turn to Barracuda for security, many people want something that optimises O365 and teams, these two provide a good pool of customers.

One last point is that Microsoft have a demonstrated habit of acquiring companies who have designed successful platforms that work on Azure, or at least those parts of companies. Do I think Microsoft will be able to fork out for a company the size of Barracuda? Not particularly, but we have seen that Microsoft’s primary remaining gaps are on the Cloud Networking and Security fronts, so it would not be the strangest thing…

 

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