Dell EMC unveils Virtual Edge hardware platform for SD-WAN

Dell EMC isn’t becoming an SD-WAN vendor, but they will go to market with software partners integrated with their customized x86 adaption in the form of a networking platform, which is the first using the new Intel Xeon D-2100 processor.

Dell EMC has expanded its open networking strategy with the introduction of their Virtual Edge Platform [VEP] family, a hardware solution for the SD-WAN market that is the first to leverage the new Intel Xeon D-2100 processor. The Dell EMC VEP4600 is available in three virtualized solutions, with software from either Silver Peak Systems, VeloCloud Networks and Versa Networks, that have been pre-validated and pre-integrated with the Dell EMC hardware.

“This announcement is about delivering the best hardware to run any SD-WAN software,” said Jeffrey Baher, Senior Director of Product and Technical Marketing at Dell EMC.

The VEP4600 is being formally announced today, but Dell EMC has already taken the wraps off it to get the word out.

“It was shown physically at the Mobile World Congress, and we have been whispering about it,” Baher said. “Because we see this as a big play for service providers, who have a longer sales cycle, we have been on it for quite a while.”

The Dell EMC VEP4600 features new Intel Xeon D-2100 processors. Their performance, power and form factor have been tuned for higher performance-per-watt for SD-WAN. Compared to standard Intel processors, they deliver more than 1.5x faster CPU performance, up to 2x improvement in packet processing, 2x memory bandwidth and up to 4x memory capacity for these kinds of complex packet processing workloads.

“We are the first to bring this new chip to market,” Baher said. “Traditional Xeons are not designed for these workloads, while these are optimized for the task at hand – route amping. The goal here is to use the best possible processor for the task. If you have been running SD-WAN on just an old x86 server, you have had to do things to accelerate it.”

Baher emphasized that the VEP4600 hardware is about much more than the new Intel technology, however.

“The design is not like anything else,” he said. “There is nothing in our portfolio, and not much on the market today, that looks like a networking product, and has an x86 engine. Most x86 products look like an x86 server. What it should look like was not in the specs that we got from Intel. The VEP6400 has networking ports on the front, and power connections on the back. No one else does that today. No one else has a box that is 15 inches deep today. This engine represents the intersection of our networking knowledge and compute knowledge. We have taken the technology from Intel, added our server experience and delivered what the market needs in terms of networking applications.”

Baher said that Dell EMC’s objective with this platform is not to become an SD-WAN vendor.

“We aren’t getting into the business of SD WAN,” he said. “It is a crowded market. But in that SD-WAN world, there is still a question of what hardware the software will run on. Until now, it hard been a standard x86 server. We offer an improvement on that.

“We are doing what we have always done with our open networking,” Baher added. “We deliver disaggregated hardware, where we run either our own software, or other people’s software on top of it. In this case, we don’t have our own software, so we will run other people’s software.

Three pre-validated and pre-integrated solutions for the VEP4600 are available out of the gate, from Silver Peak Systems, VeloCloud Networks and Versa Networks.

“We would like to add more partners, and this is a family that will probably grow,” Baher said. “We started in networking with Cumulus as a software partner, and then added BigSwitch and others. There’s no exclusivity in this.”

The go-to-market strategy is not set, because the potential opportunities are many in an environment in which the parameters are undergoing a major shift.

“The go-to-market could go in a lot of different directions, Baher said. “Certainly there are some very significant service provider opportunities. There is also an angle for MSPs. SD-WAN is finding itself in other services as well. IoT and edge networks that need WAN connectivity could call on SD-WAN functionality. We are in the midst of a significant architectural shift, which drives rethinking around both hardware and software, and it intersects with IT transformation and digital transformation. There are strong partner opportunities around these larger initiatives, and the architectural shift itself drives interesting conversations with the channel.”

The Dell EMC VEP4600 will begin shipping worldwide on April 24, 2018.