The 5 best SD-WAN vendors of 2018

1 min. read
Juniper Networks


Last week SD-WAN vendors and experts took centre stage during the SD-WAN Summit 2018 in Paris. Infradata joined the market-leading SD-WAN vendors, service providers, users and experts during this event, to share insights, discuss the current state of SD-WAN and its interoperability challenges.

With the WAN being crucial to cloud-driven enterprises, the migration to cloud-based applications creates increased demand for bandwidth. An increase that traditional enterprise WAN solutions, such as MPLS, are struggling to satisfy at acceptable costs and flexibility.

While enterprises increase the use of public cloud services and SaaS applications, they are also now looking to meet growing WAN traffic volumes with preferably existing WAN budgets. Yet they also need to invest in load balancing, failover, security and advanced orchestration technologies. Some also use the opportunity to rethink how they build and manage the network at small offices, shops and other facilities without on-site IT staff.

That’s why we’ve selected five SD-WAN vendors who have successfully differentiated themselves from other players in the market during 2018, due to an advanced portfolio of SD-WAN solutions. Of course, there is no out-of-the-box solution when it comes to finding the ‘right’ SD-WAN vendor. But these five are definitely worth paying attention to when you’re walking down the path of the SD-WAN vendor decision journey.

1. Juniper Networks Contrail

Juniper Networks’ SD-WAN offers a simplified solution for the complexity of enterprise-wide networking. Juniper is a strong player in the service provider market and uses its heritage to deliver scalable standards-based solutions to enterprises. The Contrail Service Orchestration (CSO) platform allows for the creation of self-service portals; making it easy for customers/users to provide any type of connectivity without support from IT staff or the service provider.

Juniper Networks tries to deliver simplified management of the multitude of connections from enterprise sites to multiple data centres and clouds. The relatively new Juniper Networks’ Contrail SD-WAN solution is promising for enterprises.

With a focus on ease of operation, minimising intervention and improving operational efficiency, Juniper’s Contrail SD-WAN solution sets itself apart. Juniper allows policy-driven, software-controlled, on-demand service chain customisation based on customers’ business policies.

Making WAN management easier, Contrail SD-WAN enables unified control of WAN connections. Contrail SD-WAN unifies policy and security controls across multiple hybrid WAN connection types. The SD-WAN solution supports MPLS, broadband, 4G/LTE wireless, and many legacy interfaces.

The need for local IT expertise is minimized. With zero-touch provisioning (ZTP) you simply ship their CPE to your site for automatic SD-WAN access. All branch devices and cloud endpoints are managed in this way and are supported centrally. Setting up policies per site, tenant, or per end-user is painless, quick and simple.

Some of the Juniper Networks Contrail SD-WAN advantages:

  • Contrail Service Orchestration fully integrates VPNs and third-party virtual network functions (VNFs), such as WAN optimisation, next-generation firewall, wireless LAN controller, and even specialised applications such as edge computing frameworks.
  • To consolidate such services on-premise, the NFX Series Network Services Platform can host many virtual services, greatly reducing your management overhead and site complexity. You can deploy branch functions with speed and agility because you’re no longer bound to physical equipment rollouts.
  • Able to link up broadband, multi-protocol label switching, and wireless 4G/LTE, the Juniper SD-WAN provides such things as smart dynamic path selection for high-priority traffic.
  • Includes an administration command-line interface (CLI) for managing customers
  • The Cloud CPE Tenant Site and Service Manager and the Identity and Access Manager for mapping each customer’s network services to the appropriate gateway resources
  • A Customer Portal lets customers manage sites and services for their organisations

2. Riverbed SteelConnect

The San Francisco based company is frequently cited as the leader in WAN optimisation. After releasing its first SD-WAN product SteelConnect, the introduction of the SteelHead product line seamlessly integrates WAN optimisation and SD-WAN functionality in one single appliance. Riverbed surged into SD-WAN relevance, mainly with its acquisitions of Ocedo in 2016 and Xirrus in 2017 which provides SteelConnect with the technology to build/replace the LAN at the remote site.

Maximising digital performance with its Digital Experience, Cloud Edge and Cloud Networking products, Riverbed SteelConnect provides policy-based orchestration that spans the entire distributed network fabric. It includes optimisation into AWS and Microsoft Azure, with one-click connectivity. For those that long for ongoing network management and zero-touch provisioning, to enable network or policy changes with just a few clicks of a mouse, SteelConnect is definitely worth a look.

As a WAN edge platform, Riverbed’s SteelHead SD integrates SD-WAN, WAN optimisation and perimeter firewall capabilities into a converged platform. This ensures fast, secure delivery of remote applications via centralised policies. The appliance and software are available by subscription, with Riverbed offering the appliance, cloud-based platforms and software with flexible pricing options. SteelConnect is also capable of improving app performance for all TCP traffic.

SteelConnect components include:

  • SteelConnect Access Points and Switches.
  • A line of Wi-Fi access points and remote LAN switches that automate global enforcement of access control policies and provide complete visibility into connected users and devices.
  • SteelConnect Manager. A centralised and multi-tenant management portal that provides a simplified workflow for designing, deploying, and managing distributed and hybrid networks.
  • SteelConnect Gateway. A line of physical and virtual secure WAN gateways that provide unified connectivity (point-to-point and full-mesh) and enforcement of global policy across on-premise and cloud network environments.

3. Citrix Netscaler

The Citrix NetScaler SD-WAN solution may not be as well-known as others in the market, but it does stand out amongst networking professionals.

One of the major features includes treating multiple WAN circuits as a unified pool of bandwidth, with centralised reporting and integrated WAN optimisation. Citrix NetScaler SD-WAN began as a rather simple product, providing Quality of Service (QoS) and WAN optimisation. Now it has evolved into a powerful virtual (or physical) appliance that increases the reliability of WAN, reducing recurring bandwidth costs and improving application performance. Citrix NetScaler SD-WAN is an enterprise-grade, scalable Software-Defined Wide Area Networking product that combines WAN optimisation, edge routing, WAN virtualisation, VPN, firewall capabilities, end-to-end application visibility and centralised control. It also offers the capability to optimise technologies such as Citrix’s XenApp and XenDesktop, or other enterprise application protocols.

Citrix Netscaler primary SD-WAN benefits:

  • NetScaler SD-WAN accelerates traditional enterprise applications. Branch-office users also experience faster file downloads, video streaming, printing, and application launch times.
  • Provides unified visibility into 4,000+ applications at each branch and network segment. Offering deep visibility into users and applications across the WAN and into the branch, including at corporate branch locations, NetScaler feeds information to the NetScaler Management and Analytics System (MAS).
  • For remote sites that use large file transfers, or experience high latency or congestion, the user experience can be significantly improved with deduplication, compression, and other acceleration techniques. NetScaler provides WAN optimisation not only for XenApp and XenDesktop but for all other enterprise applications.
  • End-to-end QoS. Enterprises consume applications from myriad SaaS providers, multiple clouds, and their own data centres. NetScaler SD-WAN manages prioritisation and QoS at the branch and the data centre.
  • Bandwidth Optimisation. Reducing bandwidth consumption and optimising the use of existing capacity, NetScaler also reduces traffic by up to 95 percent for the ‘bandwidth-hungry’ applications.

4. Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect

Silver Peak SD-WAN solutions enable distributed enterprises to build a better WAN that securely connects users to applications without compromising on their application performance.

Unity EdgeConnect is a physical or virtual appliance that delivers predictable application performance over any combination of transport services including low-cost consumer broadband. With its orchestrated application-driven security policies, EdgeConnect enables direct internet breakout for SaaS and web applications.

EdgeConnect is compatible with many existing WAN infrastructures, providing a graceful migration to an SD-WAN. This high-performance SD-WAN solution improves business productivity and customer responsiveness while significantly lowering WAN OPEX and CAPEX.

While many SD-WAN products are an all or nothing proposition, Silver Peak is proven to deliver flexibility and deployment options that are hard to match.

SD-WAN benefits provided by the Silver Peak SD-WAN solution:

  • Lower WAN OPEX and CAPEX
  • Greater business agility and responsiveness
  • Increased application performance across the WAN
  • Assure business intent with advanced application visibility and control
  • Robust edge-to-edge security and micro-segmentation
  • Extensibility to 3rd party products via service chaining
  • Provides benefits to both TCP and non-TCP applications.

5. Cisco SD-WAN Solution

After Cisco announced its acquisition of Viptela in August 2017, it put in place new Cisco SD-WAN solutions, including the company’s Intelligent WAN (iWAN) product, its Cisco Meraki technology for security appliances, and Viptela’s high-profile cloud-based secure SD-WAN.

Cisco SD-WAN could be the preferred solution for bulky, complex deployments, while Meraki is better place for simple, small-to-midsized businesses.

The Cisco SD-WAN Solution is a cloud-delivered overlay WAN architecture that facilitates digital and cloud transformation for enterprises. It significantly reduces WAN costs and time to deployment for new services.

Cisco SD-WAN builds a security architecture that's crucial for hybrid networks. It also provides a strong policy framework.

The SD-WAN solution solves critical enterprise problems, including:

  • Establishing transport-independent WAN for lower cost and higher diversity
  • Meeting SLAs for business-critical and real-time applications
  • Providing end-to-end segmentation for protecting critical enterprise compute resources
  • Extending seamlessly into the public cloud
  • Providing optimal user experience for SaaS applications
  • Flexible pricing and licensing options
  • Physical or virtual routing platforms

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