What the Cisco acquisition of Viptela means for the direction of SD-WAN.

For those that haven’t been following the rapidly growing SD-WAN market, Cisco’s acquisition of Viptela may seem to have come out of the blue. After all, $610M is a hefty premium for a very young company with an estimated $30M in annual revenue. But for those of us who have been immersed in SD-WAN for the last several years, it doesn’t come as a surprise at all.

SD-WAN is poised to cause radical disruption in enterprise networks, shaking up the MPLS/ISR technology that has dominated the branch WAN network for the last 20 years. And this move by Cisco validates the predictions from Gartner, IDC, and others that SD-WAN is not only growing, but beginning to cut into traditional networking sales. Adding Viptela’s technology to Cisco’s existing SD-WAN portfolio may help delay enterprises from moving away from the ISR and toward newer SD-WAN-based WAN Edge solutions, at least temporarily.

But traditional routers and router-based SD-WAN has an inherent time limit. The future is SD-WAN solutions that are built for the cloud. Applications are moving to the cloud as SaaS use grows and datacenters applications shift to public cloud. This shift requires a new way of thinking about the WAN and the branch network, one where routing takes a back seat to secure and reliable connections from the branch to applications while cumbersome command line interfaces are replaced by simple configurations and business intent policies. In simple terms, the CLI should be gone and SaaS should be the primary consideration.

Will this precipitate more consolidation in the SD-WAN market? It may. The flurry of SD-WAN startups in the last several years has resulted in too many competing solutions without sufficient differentiation. It’s entirely possible that many of them will be acquired and their technology subsumed or discarded by bigger legacy networking vendors. This, after all, is a story that has played out many times in the Silicon Valley as new technologies are introduced.

But SD-WAN is a technology for the future and for enterprises that are evolving toward the cloud and taking advantage of the agility and flexibility that comes with it. This acquisition reinforces the importance of SD-WAN, but at Citrix we believe that this momentum should be channeled to propel enterprise networks forward and not portend a return to router preeminence. NetScaler SD-WAN is a solution for that future, with an application-centric architecture that’s built for the cloud, with simple centralized policy definition, and routing as an integrated feature in the service of application delivery.

Key Takeaways:

  • SD-WAN is here to stay. It’s already causing disruption in telecom service providers’ profits and networking vendors’ market share. If you haven’t yet looked at SD-WAN, this should be a wakeup call to explore whether this technology can help your business.
  • As with many new technologies, the initial explosion of startups will subside to a few successful companies. Make sure you’re working with a company that is investing in its SD-WAN technology and is built to last. This may not be the best time to commit to a vulnerable startup.
  • Make sure your network is looking forward, not back. While routers and MPLS have served the branch well in a datacenter-centric network, it’s time to look toward the cloud and the Internet and work with companies who are experts in application delivery.