Silver Peak gets into the SD-WAN market with its recently announced Unity EdgeConnect, a new product line that aims to make it easier to provision, manage, and monitor WAN connectivity for remote and branch offices.
EdgeConnect lets customers take advantage of broadband Internet or MPLS connections to connect remote/branch offices to headquarters and cloud services. Customers deploy either a physical or virtual appliance at each location.
The appliance connects via 256-bit AES IPSec to other EdgeConnect devices. It also connects to the Unity Orchestrator, a cloud-based management portal, to create an overlay network. When administrators plug in a new device, it phones home to the Orchestrator portal, where it’s added to the overlay.
Orchestrator provides visibility into network and application performance via metrics including latency and packet loss. Using Silver Peak’s application identification technology, administrators can get see the applications being used, including cloud and SaaS apps.
App identification also means administrators can apply policies based on application requirements, such as ensuring business-related apps get higher priority over YouTube or gaming.
For customers that run multiple connections through an EdgeConnect device (say an MPLS link and DSL), administrators can specify which applications should use which link, and fail over from one link to another should a connection go down.
As you might guess from a company with roots in WAN optimization, Silver Peak touts the ability of its SD-WAN product to make the most of broadband and MPLS links.
For instance, EdgeConnect uses Forward Error Correction to fix transmission errors, and will correct out-of-order packets. It also monitors latency to determine the best path from a branch to SaaS apps.
Silver Peak also sells a WAN optimization pack, called Boost, for EdgeConnect devices. The software package provides standard optimization capabilities including TCP acceleration and WAN deduplication and compression.
The SD-WAN market has primarily been driven by startups, including Viptela, CloudGenix, and VeloCloud. Not any more.
Silver Peak has a couple of key advantages over the startups. First, it has a track record for delivering products to the WAN market. Second, the Boost optimization pack leverages Silver Peak’s heritage in WAN optimization and provides key differentiation in this emerging market.
Differentiation is going to be important going forward. Assuming all these products work as advertised, they’ll attract significant customer interest. This in turn will attract other incumbents that see a new growth opportunity. Expect other established players to build–or buy–their way in.
It’s also important to be aware of what you’re buying into. As Ivan Pepelnjak explains, many SD-WAN vendors use proprietary protocols, so you’re going to get locked in. However, Greg Ferro notes that SD-WAN is too compelling to wait for standards bodies to catch up.
The Edge Connect appliances start at $199 per site per month. Orchestrator is included in the price. The Boost pack is $5 per Mbps per month.
The hardware appliances come in five models that can support WAN bandwith from 2Mbps up to 10Gbps. The virtual appliance runs on vSphere, Hyper-V, XenServer, and KVM.
As a side note, be aware that Silver Peak adds a proprietary header within the IPSec tunnel. The company said it was necessary to enable it to track sequence numbers and time stamps for path control. To anyone looking from the outside, it appears to be a normal IPsec tunnel.
“It affects your MTU, but we provide fragmentation and reassembly across the network,” said Silver Peak CEO David Hughes in an interview. “We can make it look like your WAN carries jumbo frames, but we’ll chop them up.” This puts the burden of fragmentation and reassembly on the EdgeConnect devices.