As organizations prepare for software-defined WAN deployment, they need to research the market thoroughly and determine...
what they need from their WANs. But the SD-WAN market is constantly shifting, and choosing the right vendor can be overwhelming. To help, the comparison chart below provides a breakdown of 15 SD-WAN vendor offerings.
Our editors focused on enterprise SD-WAN technology and only included vendors that directly offer SD-WAN services to customers -- no third parties, middleware or resellers. This vendor comparison does not include fully managed SD-WAN options offered by service providers.
Overview of SD-WAN vendors
The SD-WAN comparison chart provides a side-by-side view of the following SD-WAN vendor offerings, listed alphabetically.
1. Aruba EdgeConnect SD-WAN Edge platform
HPE Aruba acquired Silver Peak in July 2020 for $925 million and has since rebranded the SD-WAN technology as Aruba EdgeConnect. The EdgeConnect platform has strong application acceleration capabilities.
2. Aryaka SmartServices SD-WAN
Aryaka Networks offers access to its private backbone via more than 30 global points of presence (PoPs), providing its own managed SD-WAN to customers.
3. Cato SASE Cloud
Cato Networks also has its own global private backbone and connects customers through more than 60 PoPs. Cato established itself early in the SD-WAN market as a vendor with comprehensive networking and security capabilities and now positions itself in the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) market.
4. Cisco Meraki
Cisco Meraki offers fewer and more basic features than other SD-WAN offerings, including Cisco Viptela, but is commonly touted as easy to use, making it better suited for smaller deployments.
5. Cisco Viptela
Cisco announced it would acquire SD-WAN startup Viptela in 2017 for $610 million in the first major move by an incumbent networking vendor to edge into the SD-WAN market. Cisco Viptela can support more complex deployments than Meraki and offers security integration and service chaining with its SD-WAN platform.
6. Citrix SD-WAN
Citrix specializes primarily in server and desktop virtualization but has carved a niche for itself in the SD-WAN market, offering integration with its cloud security and zero-trust portfolios. In 2018, Citrix rebranded its NetScaler SD-WAN to Citrix SD-WAN.
7. Cradlepoint NetCloud Service
Cradlepoint specializes in smaller, remote locations that rely primarily on wireless connectivity. Its approach focuses on providing a cloud-based alternative to a VPN.
8. FatPipe SD-WAN
FatPipe Networks has been a networking player for many years, specializing in application performance optimization and load balancing, which it features in its SD-WAN offering.
9. Fortinet Secure SD-WAN
In April 2019, Fortinet announced its intention to deliver an SD-WAN application-specific integrated circuit that would integrate with its FortiGate security appliances. Since then, the security vendor has increased its SD-WAN market share, touting features like self-healing capabilities and granular analytics.
10. Nuage Networks from Nokia
Nuage Networks offers customers the option to deploy SD-WAN via a self-operated platform or as a service, in which Nokia hosts and operates the SD-WAN platform.
11. Oracle SD-WAN
Oracle acquired Talari Networks -- one of the first players in the SD-WAN market -- in 2018 for an undisclosed sum. Oracle SD-WAN's fail-safe feature, which provides high availability for applications that are hosted in a cluster, is a commonly touted benefit.
12. Palo Alto Networks Prisma SD-WAN
Palo Alto Networks acquired CloudGenix for $420 million in April 2020, highlighting the growing convergence of networking and security. Palo Alto integrated its Prisma cloud-based security portfolio with CloudGenix SD-WAN, positioning itself as a SASE contender.
13. Riverbed SteelConnect EX
Riverbed has long specialized in WAN optimization and network performance monitoring capabilities, which it has integrated into its SD-WAN platform.
14. Versa Networks SASE
Versa Networks emerged as an SD-WAN startup in November 2015, offering an SD-WAN platform with integrated security and service chaining capabilities. With its comprehensive networking and security portfolio, Versa has also moved to position itself in the SASE market.
15. VMware SD-WAN
VMware acquired VeloCloud, another SD-WAN startup, for $449 million in 2017. VMware SD-WAN has consistently been a market leader and is well suited for large enterprise deployments.
SD-WAN vendor comparison chart
The SD-WAN comparison chart addresses a variety of important features and capabilities to consider, including security, WAN optimization, deployment options, public cloud connectivity and available pricing. The comparison does not include details about requirements that are considered SD-WAN fundamentals, such as the following:
- The SD-WAN offering should create a network overlay that abstracts the existing WAN infrastructure.
- It should enable dynamic bandwidth allocation for traffic efficiency.
- It should be transport-agnostic and support multiple types of connectivity -- like MPLS, Ethernet, cellular and broadband, for example.
This section explains how a vendor's SD-WAN offering is available to customers, such as through physical appliances, virtual appliances, cloud-based instances, universal customer premises equipment and more.
This section details which SD-WAN vendors enable connectivity to public cloud -- like AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform -- and various SaaS applications.
This section provides a rundown about the security capabilities included in each SD-WAN offering, such as stateful firewall, next-generation firewall, web filtering, secure web gateway and integration with various security vendors. It also includes information about SASE, an architecture that increasingly integrates with SD-WAN.
This section discusses whether an SD-WAN vendor offers integrated WAN optimization capabilities, optimization add-ons or third-party support.
This section lists all available pricing details -- including subscription-based offerings and appliance costs -- as provided by the vendors.
Additional questions to ask about SD-WAN technology
When looking for the right SD-WAN option for your company, it's a good idea to add the following questions to your vendor comparison list.
How easy is SD-WAN deployment and provisioning?
The majority of SD-WAN vendors say they offer zero-touch provisioning. But, even with that, configuration for any organization's deployment will take time. It's a question of how much and how easy. Some options may require a few more steps before the SD-WAN connection is established, compared with plugging cables into an SD-WAN device that automatically begins provisioning.
Most SD-WAN vendors offer the following deployment models: DIY, fully managed and hybrid. While DIY deployment was common when SD-WAN first emerged, most enterprises now opt for a fully managed or hybrid approach. Fully managed SD-WAN outsources all aspects of deployment to a managed service provider (MSP), while a hybrid approach gives customers control over some areas while outsourcing others.
What protocols does the SD-WAN technology support?
Check with each prospective SD-WAN vendor to determine which routing protocols it supports, such as Border Gateway Protocol, Open Shortest Path First and static routing. Factor in IPv6 support, if that's an important consideration for your organization. Also, evaluate how the SD-WAN platform sends traffic to and from the internet, SaaS-based applications and cloud resources, as these can require different APIs and protocols.
Does the SD-WAN platform require specialty edge devices and gateways?
Are those devices available in both virtual and physical hardware options? Is the hardware proprietary, or can you use commodity hardware? Also, ask how the vendor's SD-WAN equipment integrates with existing routers and legacy networks. This is valuable information for organizations with multiple distributed branch offices.
What are the monitoring, management and reporting capabilities?
SD-WAN uses software-defined networking technology to establish centralized control and management policies across the entire network. This enables SD-WAN to better monitor and prioritize network traffic, which improves application performance, packet loss and security, especially for real-time and business-critical traffic.
Most SD-WAN vendors include management and monitoring capabilities within the SD-WAN platform. Others work with third-party management tools, and some offer additional, more comprehensive software for customers to purchase. Ensure the SD-WAN option you select provides the management support and network insight you will need for proper SD-WAN troubleshooting.
How does the vendor support remote access and SASE?
As more companies implement work-from-home policies, it's important for them to consider how an SD-WAN service enables remote access. Some vendors have introduced SD-WAN offerings that serve home offices, providing a more flexible -- but costly -- approach for remote workers to access SaaS applications and business resources.
Also, ask your SD-WAN vendors about SASE, which converges networking and security services -- including SD-WAN -- into a single offering and delivers them directly to clients and end users. Some SD-WAN vendors have rebranded and moved into the SASE market, which comprises both networking and security vendors.
What partnerships does the SD-WAN vendor have in place?
Many SD-WAN vendors have established partnerships with security providers to integrate their security services with SD-WAN technology -- and, as the networking and security markets have shifted, some security vendors have acquired SD-WAN companies. Also, take into consideration any potential cloud and SaaS partnerships the SD-WAN vendor might have. SD-WAN vendors have also partnered with MSPs to offer their SD-WAN technology via managed SD-WAN services.