SD-WAN needs to evolve beyond the branch and beyond wired links to help businesses connect branch sites, vehicles and IoT devices
Well, it's that time again. Gartner recently issued its seminal WAN Edge Infrastructure Magic Quadrant and Critical Capabilities reports. In other words, the SD-WAN MQ.
Before we dig into Cradlepoint's 2020 results, let me first provide some overall perspective. With my former network engineering hat firmly in place, let first let me say there will never be another WAN built (or refreshed) that's not an SD-WAN. I say this because SD-WAN is more than just a set of products on the MQ; it's a fundamental shift in how enterprise and even service provider networks are architected, built, and managed. Just like the explosion of data that preceded it, the enterprise WAN is facing a greater volume, variety, and velocity of connectivity requirements than ever before. However, network budgets and NetOps staffing are not keeping up. This divergence between connectivity demands and the human capital needed to deploy and manage it means WANs must become less complicated and more scalable, flexible, and automated. Enter SD-WAN.
For context when interpreting MQ results, let’s revisit Gartner's core definition of SD-WAN:
- Zero-touch deployment: simplified, scalable branch deployment model.
- Thinner edge: router device made smarter with a more dynamic policy by leveraging external control and management planes.
- Multi-WAN capabilities: dynamic path control that intelligently spreads traffic across multiple WAN links, typically MPLS plus an internet broadband link.
- Simplified VPN: automated site-to-site VPN set up and operations.
- Edge security: enables secure direct internet access for web and cloud applications.
It's clear from above definition that Gartner sees SD-WAN as a way to build a better branch WAN. While this is a righteous pursuit, today's hyperconnected enterprise needs a WAN that goes beyond the branch — and beyond wires — to connect mobile workforces, vehicles, temporary sites, field-based IoT devices, and, most recently, work from home employees. In fact, a recent IDG State of the Wireless WAN report, sponsored by Cradlepoint, confirms growing WAN diversity. The report, which surveyed 499 IT decision-makers, cited 53% of respondents use their WAN to connect in-vehicle networks, and 77% connect fixed IoT locations such as kiosks and security cameras. Forty percent said they use their WAN to connect all three – branches, vehicles, and IoT. Of course, the vast majority of these field-based connections utilize LTE. And, wireless is not just for field-based connections; 78% of respondents say they are using or considering using LTE or 5G as the only WAN link in their branch locations.
Let's get back to the 2020 Gartner SD-WAN MQ. First of all, over 70 companies were vying for 17 "dots" in this year's MQ roundup. Just getting chosen is quite an accomplishment and means a company has achieved considerable market success with its SD-WAN offering. While Cradlepoint's dot on the MQ moved significantly toward the Visionary quadrant, we are still in Niche. It may surprise you to hear me say this is precisely the right placement. Why? Because we've optimized our SD-WAN implementation for the emerging Wireless WAN that leverages LTE or 5G cellular links to connect branch sites (in primary, hybrid, and failover mode) as well as mobile sites and vehicles, and IoT devices.
In fact, Gartner said it best when it proclaimed, Cradlepoint's target market is primarily on wireless WAN use cases, which isn't a focus of this research. That's right, Gartner is stating the current SD-WAN MQ (née WAN Edge Infrastructure Magic Quadrant) is geared toward wired branch networks.
Despite being a wireless-optimized SD-WAN offering in a wired-centric evaluation, Cradlepoint ranked on par or above many leading SD-WAN solutions in Gartner's Critical Capabilities assessment:
- Small-footprint retail WANs: Scored higher than Palo Alto/CloudGenix, Versa, Nuage Networks, and Silver Peak in functional applicability.
- SD-WAN features: Scored on par with Cisco IOS/iWAN, HPE (Aruba), Nuage Networks, and Versa — and above Cisco Meraki.
- Security features: Scored on par with Silver Peak and well ahead of VMware.
- Operational features: Scored on par with Versa.
- Deployment flexibility: Scored on par with Cisco Meraki.
- Small-platform flexibility: Scored on par with HPE (Aruba) and above every other player, including Cisco IOS/iWAN, Cisco Meraki, VMware, Versa, Palo Alto/CloudGenix, Nuage Networks, and Silver Peak.
- Scalability: Scored on par with Cisco Meraki and VMware, and above every other player, including Cisco IOS/iWAN, Cisco Viptela, Versa, Palo Alto/CloudGenix, Nuage Networks, and Silver Peak.
Cradlepoint is honored to be in the very exclusive club of SD-WAN companies that made the cut in this year's WAN Edge Infrastructure Magic Quadrant. Undoubtedly, if the research assessed critical wireless SD-WAN functionality and the ability to provide a pathway to 5G for enterprise customers, Cradlepoint would have faired very differently. Until then, we will continue to focus on our customers' need for a software-defined, hyperconnected enterprise WAN and wait to see what next year's MQ brings.