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Gartner WAN edge Magic Quadrant offers buying advice

How should businesses buy WAN edge technology? You probably shouldn't rely on vendor name recognition alone. Instead, consider some niche players in the SD-WAN market.

Dozens of vendors constitute the WAN edge market, which includes both traditional branch routers and software-defined WAN. The market is fragmented into well-known incumbent vendors, as well as several smaller suppliers. More than 70 vendors compete in the WAN edge market, according to Gartner estimates, and even more could enter the fray.

WAN edge infrastructure connects distributed business sites to resources in private and public data centers, as well as the cloud. The market for this technology is growing rapidly, largely driven by SD-WAN, Gartner analyst Jonathan Forest said.

In 2019, fewer than 20% of enterprises implemented SD-WAN, according to Gartner's recent Magic Quadrant for WAN Edge Infrastructure. By 2024, however, 60% of enterprises will have implemented SD-WAN, the report said.

With a variety of services and vendors, the SD-WAN options may seem overwhelming for technology buyers. But, despite the market noise and confusion, several key differentiators stand out among the products, and buyers should go through a rigorous process to find out what's best for them.

"The right vendor for each client is the one that meets their needs," Forest said.

Consider product differentiators

SD-WAN comes in many flavors, and many vendors have specialized offerings. For example, some products are DIY deployments, while others are offered as managed services. Some vendors also specialize in certain vertical markets or geographic areas.

In addition, other vendors might focus on certain use cases, such as security, application performance, ease of use or cloud connectivity. As a result, customers might choose products from different vendors as part of their SD-WAN deployment or opt for an all-in-one multifunction device, which usually sells for less than several assorted devices. Although different vendor products may have overlapping functionalities, how the products perform certain functions can vary.

Pricing models, too, can differ. Some customers want more subscription-based consumption, while others are willing to take on more Capex. At the high end of the market, Gartner said, where customers may require deployments of several thousand branches across multiple geographies, the scale of deployment and support for complex environments are key differentiators.

As buyers vet vendors, they need to consider all these variables, Forest said. Buyers, he added, need to understand the problems and use cases they are trying to address and evaluate vendors based on that criteria. Potential buyers should also invite several vendors into the evaluation process, including incumbent and nonincumbent vendors.

Don't just focus on the leaders

In Gartner Magic Quadrants, much is made of where vendors land on the grid. They could be considered leaders, challengers, visionaries or niche players. But, Forest explained, even though some vendors are deemed niche players, those vendors can still meet the needs of many businesses. Niche does not mean the products have deficiencies. It could simply mean the vendor is focused on certain use cases, geographies or vertical markets.

Furthermore, even vendors not on the Magic Quadrant might also be a good fit for some companies. In other words, as you shop for SD-WAN vendors, you don't need to pick a perceived leader.

Where the vendors landed in the Magic Quadrant

Gartner placed 19 vendors in its Magic Quadrant for WAN Edge Infrastructure 2019 report. However, the report also listed several other notable vendors that buyers may want to consider. Here's how Gartner positioned the 19 vendors in its WAN edge Magic Quadrant:

  • Leaders: VMware and Silver Peak;
  • Challengers: Fortinet, Cisco, Citrix and Huawei;
  • Visionaries: Versa, CloudGenix and Aryaka; and
  • Niche players: Juniper Networks, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Cradlepoint, Oracle, Nuage Networks, FatPipe Networks, Peplink, Barracuda, Teldat and Riverbed.

Despite the horde of vendors in the WAN edge market, don't expect massive consolidation and a flurry of acquisitions anytime soon. Some consolidation, however, is expected, possibly from peripheral players and not necessarily the market leaders.

"With 70 vendors," Forest said, "there has to be some consolidation because the market can't support that many."

In the last few years, the market has seen limited consolidation. In 2017, for example, Cisco bought Viptela, and VMware acquired VeloCloud. Oracle bought Talari Networks in 2018.

"We expect this market to remain extremely fragmented during the next few years, with little sign of significant consolidation," Gartner analysts wrote in the Magic Quadrant. "It is likely that more than 10 mainstream suppliers will remain, as we look out five years."

This was last published in January 2020

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