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New Verizon service uses Viptela SD-WAN technology

Verizon has rolled out a managed SD-WAN service using technology from startup Viptela, in addition to a similar service using Cisco IWAN, which it introduced last year.

Verizon has rolled out a managed SD-WAN service using Viptela Inc.'s platform, less than a year after the carrier first revealed it was collaborating with the SD-WAN technology startup.

In launching the new service anchored by Viptela's technology, Verizon -- which already offers a managed software-defined WAN service using Cisco Intelligent WAN, or IWAN -- has bolstered its managed SD-WAN offerings. John Burke, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill., said while the Cisco and Viptela offerings are similar, Verizon likely wants to give users options.

"Enterprises want to have a choice -- they don't want to be forced down one channel just because they want to have a managed option," he said. "They may be more committed to the idea of keeping Verizon in the mix as their carrier partner than they are wedded to one particular branch router, vendor or strategy."

Burke added Verizon might be able to offer some technologies more cheaply than others, allowing the carrier to achieve a higher profit margin by expanding its portfolio.

A Verizon-Viptela partnership was first discussed in May 2015, when the two companies presented a case study at the Open Networking User Group's spring conference. The carrier discussed how it used Viptela's SD-WAN technology to make an unnamed Fortune 100 healthcare company's wide area network more flexible and secure. At the time, Verizon said it was offering the managed SD-WAN service to select customers only.

But in late 2015, Verizon became the first major U.S. carrier to roll out a widely available managed software-defined WAN service, partnering with Cisco IWAN. At the time, Verizon emphasized it was pursuing a multivendor SD-WAN approach, but declined to say which other vendor platforms it might offer, or whether it was still working with Viptela.

Burke said it makes sense that Verizon would launch its first managed SD-WAN service with Cisco, a long-standing and proven technology partner. He added, however, the addition of another managed offering points to the overall robustness of the SD-WAN technology market.

"It means that SD-WAN is really 'a thing,' and not just a passing fancy," he said. "I'm very happy to see this happening, because it marks a major step in the maturation of the space."

Viptela's SD-WAN technology relies on a network overlay to centralize management, increase agility, enable zero-touch provisioning and allow virtual service chaining.

The SD-WAN technology market is crowded with offerings from startup vendors. Burke said Verizon's selection of Viptela may push it toward the front of the pack.

"It should boost [Viptela's] fortunes enormously to have a partner of that size and reach plugging them into the portfolio as a regular offering," he said.

Although one of SD-WAN's attractions is its ease of management, Burke said the growing interest in managed SD-WAN services underscores that some enterprises still prefer a third party to manage their networks. AT&T is developing a similar managed service, called Universal Customer Premise Equipment, which allows users to spin up virtualized branch services on demand. Universal CPE uses network functions virtualization technology to allow multiple software-based appliances -- such as routers and WAN accelerators -- to operate on one physical box. 

Next Steps

Are carriers foolish to offer managed SD-WAN services?

Case study: How SD-WAN helped a dental clinic chain

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