Cloud Comms Summit US – SD-WAN Track

This afternoon saw me head into the SD-WAN track of our summit. There were also tracks on Product Innovation, Go-to-Market and Regulation, but being an SD-WAN analyst with a panel to host I am potentially a bit biased in saying which track is best and which one I attended.

Panel 1 – “Service Providers’ Cloud Networking Experiences

The SD-WAN track started with a presentation from Cavell’s own Gail Smith, who laid out our view of the market, its nuances and how we see the opportunity. This featured some of our enterprise and broader research results, which paint a clear picture of the market potential in the US and beyond.

Then we dived into the first panel on Service Provider’s Cloud Networking Experiences with Mike Fitz, VP/GM of Global Wireline Business at Sprint, Jared Martin, VP MSx Managed Services, TPx, Sanjay Srinivasan, Chief Architect of Business Services, Vonage, Matthew Douglass, Senior Director Solution Engineering at Cincinnati Bell technology Solutions, and Olen Scott, SVP Worldwide Channels at Aryaka. Matthew and Jared both echoed the same statement during their introduction speeches: “We don’t offer UCaaS anymore without it”,which is a pretty strong endorsement of the quality that SD-WAN can offer the UC space.

Jared shared a nice anecdote about driving with his family and using VeloCloud on 4G with kids his streaming content in the back of the car. He said the quality was so good none of his colleagues could tell he was on the road, so after that they decided to adopt the technology more broadly.

Sanjay agreed that the technology is transformative, though said that it wasn’t entirely about SD-WAN itself, it was about doing whatever you could to make sure voice and video quality stayed high. Now, however, this has extended even further into business application level quality requirements like the retail sector where Point-of-Sale technology needs to be up permanently. Sanjay thinks the difference in network awareness with SD-WAN is night and day, illustrated by the customer quote saying “I didn’t know my network was doing that”, which also enables insights that haven’t been possible before.

Olen agreed with the premise that applications are the main focus of SD-WAN, going as far to say that Aryaka don’t necessarily see themselves solely as an SD-WAN player but calls their solution an “optimized application delivery platform”. He also mentioned the new standards published by the MEF, but questioned whether they would be the best people to make a standard as the organisation consists largely of terrestrial network service providers. Olen then mentioned the importance of WAN Optimisation, saying that it was more important than routing across multiple links, also arguing that internet paths will never be sufficient for many tasks as the internet cannot perform in the way it needs to.

In response to a question from the audience about how to sell vs BGP, Matthew made an excellent point, that there are so many technologies and vendors to choose from you have to take a consultative attitude, look honestly at both your customer and what you can provide and make sure you can determine what they need for their specific solution. You need to understand the difference between session-based and packet-based, forward packet failure protection or not and why it works. One piece of advice offered by Sanjay, that most of the other panellists agreed with was to demo, if you’re up against an older technology the demo will show the superiority of the new technology.

Our second question was about the future of SD-WAN, asking if the security players are going to get into SD-WAN. Jared replied to this, saying that the old-school view is that security and network vendors should both stay in their lanes does persist, however, all of these security solutions are actually applications so there is a lot of potential convergence. However, the real question is who is going to invest in the product, and whether you want your security guy telling you how to do your network, or vice versa, and the reality is that it’s going to be on a use-case or application benefit.

Sanjay thought a lot of this is also dependent on the customer decisions, and what the size of the company is and how much security they need. The mid-market will likely see some consolidation because they would love to get rid of one of their vendors and lower their hardware and operating costs, whereas larger enterprises still need specialised and powerful technology. Olen agreed with this, saying that the larger enterprise is going to want the best security provider, and the best WAN Opt provider and the provider is going to have to make those two works together, they won’t want the company whose strength is aggregation and not the solution the enterprise is buying. 

But how to manage all of these connections!

Session 2 – “The Future of SD-WAN

Our second session saw, Mike Wilkinson, Chief Product Officer at Infovista, Gail Smith from Cavell and Greg Zweig, Director of Solutions Marketing at Ribbon talking about the future of SD-WAN. Lots of different ideas were discussed during this session as well, though as I was hosting, I have less notes on specifics. However, one thing that stood out to me was the potential role of data gathered from SD-WAN.

We have more data available through these services than we have ever had before, and it has a lot of potential uses. It can be used for optimisation of networks, and one of the most common uses for the data is for SPs to prove that their network isn’t at fault when there is a failure. However, there is also a lot of potential for not just network optimisation through data but also business efficiency and cultural lessons that can be learned from who is talking to who and what applications they are using. Application usage statistics especially tie into everything a company does on a productivity level. Without even taking the data externally there is a lot that business efficiency and productivity teams could potentially learn and streamline with use for this data.

Another point highlighted was the need for more education of the channel. There is a definite gap in information about how to pitch and sell SD-WAN so that is a potential growth area, and of course, as an analyst focused on helping people figure out how to go-to-market with SD-WAN, it’s not such a bad thing for us if sales teams need more training!

The SD-WAN track was very lively and successful, and after that we headed into the main room again for two last panels on “How to drive the enterprise consumption of APIs” and “The Cloud Comms Market in 2025”.

And after those our event is a wrap, so thank you all for joining us, and especially those that made it down to our SD-WAN track, and we look forward to seeing you all next year or at our future events in Europe over the next few months.

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