NEW YORK -- Service provider giant Verizon and software-defined WAN start-up Viptela are joining forces to offer a managed hybrid WAN service to select enterprises. In a presentation at last week's Open Networking User Group (ONUG) spring 2015 conference, Verizon and Viptela executives discussed an early use case and acknowledged they are working with several enterprise customers, but they did not say whether the service will eventually be available to all Verizon users.
Hybrid WAN dynamically sends traffic over two or more links, such as broadband Internet, traditional multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and Long Term Evolution (LTE). Viptela's overlay software creates Layer 3 tunnels in broadband connections and then uses software-defined policies to dynamically determine where to direct individual applications and services. For example, the hybrid WAN can send traffic that has high latency sensitivity, like voice, over Verizon's MPLS links, while dispatching lower priority packets over broadband.
Offering an easier way for enterprises to use new technology
Enterprises skittish about using an SD-WAN startup might be more comfortable deploying a technology like virtual WAN if it's offered by a major service provider, suggested Viraj Parekh, Verizon's director of product and new business initiatives.
"They need professional expertise to effectively go through this transformation with a minimum risk approach," he said. "They are reaching out to carriers like Verizon to help and assist them."
Neither Verizon nor Viptela would disclose additional details about the service -- or the extent of their partnership -- beyond the information they shared in the ONUG presentation.
Parekh and Viptela CEO Amir Khan said the new service was fueled by a request from an unidentified Fortune 100 healthcare company that was selling several of its branch hospitals. It wanted to provide its divested locations limited, controlled access to the company's WAN during the transition phase. Viptela and Verizon joined forces to create a segmented, multi-tenant network.
Because security was a primary concern, Parekh said that Viptela's high-scale encryption rates and ability to provide software-defined network segmentation was particularly attractive to the healthcare company. Viptela's overlay technology allows users to virtually isolate parts of the network and assign each segment a different encryption scheme. These segmentation policies can then be centrally updated through software changes, allowing for increased network agility.
Traffic and services overseen by centralized, software-defined policies
After a proof-of-concept lab trial, Verizon and Viptela launched a production pilot and deployed the hybrid WAN service to multiple hospital sites. Khan said the customer was able to track traffic and manage services using centralized, software-defined policies, resulting in cost savings, heightened security and better visibility into the network.
"Today, topologies drive connectivity, and that should not be the case," Khan said. "Topologies should be catering to the needs of applications. That's what you are missing from the networks today."
Nemertes Research analyst John Burke said SD-WAN technology like Viptela's actually decreases the need for the kinds of MPLS circuits that Verizon offers, making the partnership especially intriguing and -- at first glance -- unlikely. He said Verizon is looking beyond a potential threat to see an opportunity.
"[Viptela's] focus is on trying to bring the simplicity of an SDN model into the WAN space and make it hugely easier to configure," he said. "I could see a lot of logic to a partnership between a company that provides connectivity for big WANs and a company that wants to make the end-user organization a lot happier with what they can do with that WAN."
Burke labeled the relationship mutually beneficial. Viptela's overlay technology allows Verizon to solve immediate customer problems while the start-up gains access to Verizon's extensive WAN customer base.
SD-WAN market ripe for more partnerships, alliances
The market will probably see more partnerships between service providers and SD-WAN vendors in the future, according to Enterprise Management Associates analyst Shamus McGillicuddy, as the larger companies look to experiment with overlay technologies.
"With Viptela, it's just a question of shipping boxes to all the sites, plugging them in and coding something with the software," he said. "That is something Verizon would love to roll out to more customers, I'm sure."
Verizon's Parekh indicated as much in his speech at ONUG, implying that the companies will handle more hybrid WAN deployments in the enterprise moving forward.
"Verizon is working with Viptela as a partner to lay the foundation for SD-WAN in the market," he said.
ONUG co-founder Nick Lippis said service providers won't be the only companies offering SD-WAN as the legacy WAN market transitions away from MPLS-anchored leased-line connectivity.
"We're going to see integrators offer SD-WAN services -- companies that you wouldn't normally think of as service providers," Lippis said. "All they have to do is get bandwidth and offer that for a service. They can make a business out of offering SD-WAN buy-versus-build options. We're at the very beginning of a long cycle that is going to fundamentally change [the market]."
What you need to know about hybrid WANs
VeloCloud offers cloud WAN service using MPLS and broadband links
Viptela wants to make a more agile, hybrid WAN