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Cisco refused to participate in NSS Labs report on SD-WAN

Cisco wouldn't activate NSS Labs' Viptela license after the testing firm paid between $30,000 and $40,000 for the technology for a comparative NSS Labs report on SD-WAN products.

Cisco refused to activate the Viptela software-defined WAN product NSS Labs bought for testing, leaving the research firm with a noticeable hole in its recent comparative report on SD-WAN vendors.

Cisco did not provide a reason for refusing to activate the product NSS Labs had purchased for between $30,000 and $40,000, NSS Labs CEO Vikram Phatak said this week. "There was no reason given other than, effectively, they didn't want to be tested (for the NSS Labs report)."

Cisco's action marked the first time a vendor had refused to turn on a product NSS Labs had bought for evaluation, Phatak said. Cisco's Viptela team had initially told NSS Labs it would support the test, which led the firm to buy the product.

"That's a first for us, candidly," Phatak said. "And given Cisco's ethical rules and so on -- rules of conduct -- I'm in shock because normally, they're pretty straightforward to work with."

Cisco's response

After initially refusing to discuss the matter, Cisco released a statement that said NSS Labs's proposed testing methodology "fell well short" of reflecting "the enterprise-grade nature of customer SD-WAN requirements."

"We shared real customer deployment requirements with them, but our feedback wasn't incorporated," Cisco said. "At that point, we decided not to participate in the test."

Not participating, however, usually doesn't mean the vendor will prevent the test from going forward. Typically, when a company refuses to join a test, NSS Labs will conduct it alone.

"If someone says they don't want to be tested, we say, 'That's great, but if a product is good enough to be sold to the public, it's good enough to be tested,'" Phatak said. "We're going to buy it, and we'll report to the public."

NSS Labs wants a refund

NSS Labs wants Cisco to refund the money spent on Viptela. It is hoping it can get the money back without going to court.

"I hope it doesn't come to that," Phatak said. "We haven't talked to any lawyers. I'm assuming that we'll be able to have the conversation and get our money back."

Typically, NSS Labs buys products, and the vendors turn them on like they would for any other customer.

That's a first for us, candidly. And given Cisco's ethical rules and so on -- rules of conduct -- I'm in shock.
Vikram PhatakCEO, NSS Labs

NSS Labs noted Cisco's refusal to activate the Viptela purchase in its SD-WAN Comparative Report, which was the company's first SD-WAN test. Not having Cisco in the evaluation left out one of the largest SD-WAN vendors and a major tech company.

In the first quarter, London-based IHS Markit listed Cisco as No. 4 in the SD-WAN market, just behind Silver Peak. VMware was first with a 19% share, followed by Aryaka with 18%.

The NSS Labs report, released this month, compared the products of nine vendors, including VMware's NSX SD-WAN, formerly VeloCloud. VMware is Cisco's largest competitor.

NSS Labs had also planned to include Silver Peak in the comparison but noted it was unable to obtain the product in time for testing.

Tech companies often cite recommended ratings in NSS Labs reports in marketing materials. In April, Cisco highlighted in a blog post the organization's "recommended" rating for the Cisco Advanced Malware Protection for Endpoints product.

Based on its recent SD-WAN tests, NSS Labs recommended products from VMware, Talari Networks and Fortinet and listed products from Citrix Systems, FatPipe Networks, Forcepoint and Versa Networks as "verified." Tech buyers should consider recommended and verified products as candidates for purchase, according to NSS Labs.

The company issued "caution" ratings for Barracuda Networks and Cradlepoint, which means companies should not deploy their products without a comprehensive evaluation, NSS Labs said.

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