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VeloCloud SD-WAN user Brooks Brothers assesses VMware buy

Brooks Brothers, a VeloCloud SD-WAN and VMware customer, sees the VMware acquisition as a positive. But enterprises in mixed-vendor environments could face an important decision.

The news of VMware's intent to acquire software-defined WAN startup VeloCloud indicates a sign of the times, as the SD-WAN market continues to consolidate. While the acquisition might not have immediate repercussions for existing SD-WAN customers, it's clear the shifting SD-WAN vendor landscape is forcing enterprises to consider how a potential sale of their current provider could affect their operations.

Case in point: Brooks Brothers. The New York-based retailer has some 300 locations using VeloCloud SD-WAN. Manny Stergakis, director of technical services, said while the clothier isn't worried about the acquisition, he doesn't want VMware to change VeloCloud SD-WAN.

"We would hope, obviously, [VMware] wouldn't change the [VeloCloud] product and they would keep the support and the R&D they do for the product," he said. He added that Brooks Brothers is currently a VMware shop, using VMware ESX hypervisor software and Dell products, as well.

"So, for us, I think [the acquisition] is a positive, because these are the vendors we use anyway," he said.

Jim Duffy, an analyst at 451 Research, said he believes most companies using both VeloCloud and VMware software will experience few bumps along the way.

"If [customers] are already VMware shops, especially VMware NSX, they have to be feeling pretty good," Duffy said in an email to SearchSDN. "This could potentially provide a consistent and uniform policy extension from the data center to the cloud, through the WAN."

VeloCloud -- like most vendors in similar situations -- will most likely optimize its SD-WAN features for VMware environments, Duffy said. VeloCloud SD-WAN customers using Cisco products, however, could see their features capped out at the current level of capability. Cisco completed its acquisition of SD-WAN vendor Viptela this summer.

Duffy said both Cisco and VMware will try to use their SD-WAN acquisitions to persuade enterprises to unify their underlying network infrastructures on a single platform.

"It's an opportunity for VMware to migrate those shops to NSX, and [it's] also an opportunity for Cisco to migrate ACI [Application Centric Infrastructure] shops to Viptela," he said. "Expect to see some incentives coming from these and other vendors in order to entice mixed-vendor environments to move one way or another."

The right fit for Brooks Brothers

This could potentially provide a consistent and uniform policy extension from the data center to the cloud, through the WAN.
Jim Duffyanalyst at 451 Research

For Brooks Brothers, its adoption of VeloCloud SD-WAN was fueled by MPLS connectivity limitations it faced as it tried to bring up new business applications.

"As new applications were coming out on the business side for our stores -- as well as our corporate locations -- they had a lot more need for bandwidth, and the legacy MPLS wasn't cutting it," Stergakis said. Cost was another consideration.

These factors led Stergakis to look into broadband connectivity for the company's locations. But with more than 500 company sites worldwide, this presented potential support issues.

"I didn't want to have my network guys support 300 to 400 tunnels and firewalls all over the U.S. and the globe," Stergakis said.

Brooks Brothers turned its attention to SD-WAN, which would allow the retailer to use broadband as the primary link, with cellular connectivity as backup. After looking at other SD-WAN startups, which Stergakis said he deemed immature, the retailer ran a successful pilot with VeloCloud SD-WAN.

"We were looking for a product that was easy to use," he said. "Take it out of the box, set it down, configure it and send it out. That's what we were able to achieve with VeloCloud."

The design and prep work for the SD-WAN implementation took a couple of months, according to Stergakis.

"Obviously, when you introduce something new to the environment, we weren't going to be converting everything over in one day," he said. "We really had to scope out the traffic -- the old traffic, the new traffic, what was going to happen, where it was going -- to accommodate the routes everywhere."

Brooks Brothers designed its SD-WAN with broadband or DSL as primary -- depending on availability and location -- and Long Term Evolution from Cradlepoint as the backup. MPLS is still used, but only minimally, Stergakis said, for larger corporate locations.

Brooks Brothers has already deployed VeloCloud SD-WAN in its Australian and Hong Kong locations, as well as the majority of its North American sites. Once the company completes the remaining six North American implementations, Stergakis said locations in Japan and Europe are next. Then, the company will look at the remaining sites using MPLS and determine how to move forward from there.

"Like us, I'm sure many people out there look at what's on the market and what they have today," he said. "You have to look at the appliance and the configuration, the ease of use, the effort the companies are putting into it, and then you make the right choice."

Next Steps

SD-WAN acquisitions expected to continue in 2018

Network design can include both SD-WAN and MPLS

Use these steps to prepare for SD-WAN deployment

Dig Deeper on SDN architecture

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