It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Viptela’s SD-WAN technology. I presented at their FutureWan SD-WAN Virtual Summit. I talked about my experience with their solution in my video series on SD-WAN. I’ve been an SD-WAN evangelist for some time.
At the same time, I’ve not been a big fan of Cisco’s competing iWan offering — a cobbled-together collection of technologies which have been marketed as SD-WAN. Two months ago, I wrote about Cisco’s growing identity crisis as it relates to SD-WAN with Viptela’s solution in mind.
Now that Cisco has announced the purchase of Viptela for $610M in cash, what does this mean for the future of Cisco, Viptela, and SD-WAN?
First, the SD-WAN space is crowded. With more than two dozen vendors, every one that touches the WAN markets an “SD-WAN” solution. Now that Cisco has a viable SD-WAN offering, I expect the market to thin and for definitions to become more clear.
There are a few things Cisco must do. First, they must tightly integrate Viptela’s software into their WAN offerings. They cannot treat Viptela as a different business unit that runs independently like they did with Meraki. Cisco’s entire WAN portfolio must run Viptela’s SD-WAN software and it must happen fast.
Second, they must embrace the culture of customer focus that has been so attractive at Viptela. In recent years, Cisco has adopted a posture among their technical teams in which they tell their customers what they need instead of listening to customers. For example, in a meeting with high-level Cisco engineers, we had to justify running BGP on a WAN router. We needed to dynamically distribute routing information from our sites — not an unlikely use case.
Most importantly, Cisco must continue the innovation that Viptela began. Although the technology a huge step forward, there is much work yet to do. The user interface of Viptela’s management console could use some improvement. Better visibility into traffic flows and path selection would be helpful. Viptela needs to refine their cloud deployment models and make it easier for customers to extend their infrastructure into the cloud.
I’ve been critical of Cisco in recent months, yet I choose to remain hopeful. I’m hopeful that the meteoric rise of SD-WAN has shaken Cisco out of their complacency. I’m hopeful that they will fully integrate Viptela technology into their WAN routing platforms. And I’m hopeful that customers will see not only technology benefits, increased operational efficiency, and security, but also overall cost savings, from implementing Viptela’s (now Cisco’s) SD-WAN technologies for years into the future.
A girl can dream, can’t she?