New Silver Peak virtual network overlay aims to displace MPLS networks – gradually

Unity EdgeConnect, which builds on the Unity fabric Silver Peak announced last year, is a virtual network overlay which leverages broadband to connect users to applications, while also letting them retain their existing routers and firewalls and move to a broadband WAN at their own speed.

John Vincenzo SP 300

John Vincenzo, SVP and CMO of Silver Peak

Santa Clara-based Silver Peak has announced Unity EdgeConnect, a virtual network overlay which leverages broadband to connect users to applications while at the same time allowing the users to retain their existing routers and firewalls, so that they can move to a broadband WAN at their own pace.

Last year, Silver Peak introduced its Unity architecture, an intelligent WAN fabric designed to unify the enterprise network with the public cloud. Its ability to keep Cloud SaaS and IaaS traffic on the same fabric allow it to intelligently route traffic over a secure, optimal path, giving IT the ability to monitor and control connectivity to the cloud.

“Now we are announcing new product family tied to the Unity architecture launch, which delivers a software-defined WAN,” said John Vincenzo, SVP  and Chief Marketing Officer of Silver Peak. “The software-defined WAN term hasn’t made its way outside early adopters yet, and most customers say they want to use the Internet for WAN. That’s why we call it broadband, but it is in the context of software-defined networking.”

The Unity architecture and products are designed to deal with the connectivity limitations of multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) networks in the cloud and SaaS era.

“MPLS made sense when applications lived in the datacentre, but things have changed with the advent of the cloud and with SaaS applications moving to the Internet,” Vincenzo said. “Because the location where those apps reside has changed, the same connectivity patterns don’t work well, and users get frustrated.”

At the same time, Vincenzo said that organizations are rightly skeptical of just moving functionality to the Internet. There are performance and reliability concerns, and MPLS does have SLAs, which the Internet does not. Security concerns are serious in an Internet network full of tons of other stuff. Visibility and control are also issues. The carriers actually have the direct control, but they still maintain privacy.

“Unity Edge Connect overcomes all these problems, with three new products that let you put broadband in place to augment – and eventually replace – MPLS,” Vincenzo said. “Unity Edge Connect is a virtual network overlay, which is important for people starting to make this transition. The overlay lets you keep your existing infrastructure in place, to make it simple. You don’t have to rip and replace anything.”

The solution has three components. One is the Unity Edge Connect appliance itself, which is available in either a virtual or physical form factor. The second is the Unity Orchestrator, a global management system which provides the real-time monitoring and visibility, and the ability to centrally assign business intent policies to secure and control all WAN traffic. The third is Unity Boost, an optional performance pack that accelerates application performance as needed.

“Unity Boost is a clear differentiator for us,” Vincenzo said. “It lets you accelerate applications as you need it, and choose where and when you need additional performance.”

Unity EdgeConnect features policy automation that creates templates for the assignment of specific types of traffic. Its Dynamic Path Control provides for real-time traffic steering over any broadband or MPLS link based on these company-defined templates.

“They can be based on set policies or by application of advanced metrics,” Vincenzo said. “If there is a problem on the Internet, the failover takes less than a second, so the end user experience is likely to be that nothing happened.” Cloud Intelligence also provides real-time updates on the best performing path to reach the SaaS applications.

Data is secured edge-to-edge through 256 bit AES encrypted tunnels. No unauthorized outside traffic is allowed to enter the branch. This WAN hardening secures branch offices without the appliance sprawl and operating costs of deploying and managing dedicated firewalls.

Bob Bruce Silver Peak

Bob Bruce, Silver Peak’s SVP of Worldwide Channel Sales

“We previewed this with over 400 participants representing 100 partners in North America,” said Bob Bruce, Silver Peak’s SVP of Worldwide Channel Sales. Even though it is a departure from traditional WAN optimization, he said their partners are excited, and for good reason.

“We are really at an inflection point in the market, and all the industry pundits say the software-defined WAN market is many degrees higher than WAN optimization,” Bruce said. “If industries are going to begin to augment MPLS it will be with broadband, and it’s not an issue of if, but of when.”

Those signs are already there, he maintained.

“We are already seeing RFPs coming out from the enterprises, which we didn’t see with early WAN optimization,” Bruce said. “The difference is because there is now an external force in function, apps moving to the cloud, which is making this well accepted.”

Bruce said that some of their larger partners are installing this portfolio themselves.

“They are adopting it for internal usage to solve a problem and to learn more about it, so that they can take it out to their customers,” he said.

Bruce said that he has worked with the channel in networking for a long time, and knows partners tend to be leery of new products, but said this one is different.

“While there are some individual exceptions, the channel on a worldwide basis doesn’t make markets – they react to them,” he said. “That’s what they should do. They are consultants. They are not the pioneers. But the market is there for this now. It’s not a bleeding edge technology. You have to time it right, but if you don’t react to a market quick enough, there are casualties along the way. We firmly believe and our partners believe, that now is the time to act.”