Patrick Sweeney joins Talari Networks from cybersecurity SonicWall, here is his stab on SD-WAN
Talari is one of the first vendors in the SD-WAN space and has lately got Patrick Sweeney on board as their new CEO. Prior to Patrick joining Talari, I had conversations with the Talari team about their strategy and view of the SD-WAN market. Now, as Patrick has joined the team, I was interested to get his view on these things and see what has changed. That’s how this interview came to life.
Q. Tell me about Talari and how it got to SD-WAN
Talari was always doing SD-WAN, well before it was called SD-WAN. In fact, our technical co-founder was brilliant and he had built an architecture with a centralized controller even before SDN (Software-Defined Networking) was introduced in 2011.
Talari was arguably the first SD-WAN vendor. And we’re inarguably the first and leading SD-WAN vendor offering failsafe SD-WANs. And by failsafe, I mean delivering MPLS-class high availability and predictable application performance (a.k.a. Quality of Experience, or QoE). Delivering wide area networks at least as reliable and with at least the QoE that MPLS has always provided while leveraging Internet connectivity and Internet economics is the core technology on which Talari was built.
Talari called it Adaptive Private Networking when they started out, and then later WAN Virtualization. And now there’s an industry called SD-WAN, and so of course we use that term. But make no mistake: what’s now called SD-WAN is the business that Talari has been in and its founders envisioned when they started the company; it’s just now there are other vendors finally doing some of the same things and trying to solve some of the same challenges.
Q You are coming to Talari from SonicWall, a cybersecurity company. What excites you about SD-WAN and what differences do you see in dealing with SD-WAN vs. security?
They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice. But in this case, I think that is exactly what we are going to see. I was fortunate to join SonicWall at an amazing time when we were at the elbow of the growth curve where the security market just grew and grew and grew. The SD-WAN market is at that same early stage where the market starts to grow and grow. Talari literally invented SD-WAN, so it is in the best position to take advantage of this tremendous growth.
I see more similarities than differences between the SD-WAN market and the early security market. Just like in the early days of security there are many players who claim to have great solutions. But in the end, only a few truly had a superior technology that could please customers. Talari is an SD-WAN solution leader. And we’ll see the same type of growth that the security industry saw.
Q. Describe the SD-WAN landscape as you see it today
The SD-WAN market is seemingly crowded. There are at least 40 different companies that claim to have the solution. Realistically the vast majority simply have an old technology they have dusted off claiming to be SD-WAN so they can try to participate in this big market. And there are several new startups that have done some network management technology, support multiple links, and deliver it as an OTT service, and so claim they are doing SD-WAN. The truth is only three or four companies have a great SD-WAN solution that can deliver pristine application reliability and quality of service. Companies rely on things like VoIP, cloud applications and other mission-critical solutions. Talari is one of the few vendors that have a solution that will meet those customer needs.
Q. Tell me about the Talari solution, does it focus mainly on MPLS replacement providing branch-to-branch connectivity or does it enable digital transformation to the cloud through branch-to-cloud connectivity?
The SD-WAN market is not just about cost and it’s not just about the quality of the application delivery. It is about intersection of both those things. Customers are trying to figure out how to have perfect application experiences – perfect VoIP – perfect video conferencing – great cloud application experience, etc. But paying the huge price for massively more MPLS a) is not an option for almost anyone out there, and b) does not solve the problem for the cloud. Nor does just adding more Internet bandwidth.
The most common use case is for companies to maintain their MPLS for a period of time while they expand their use of Internet & wireless. After customers gain confidence with the SD-WAN solution and realize that dual Internet connectivity produces the same high-quality results when used with SD-WAN, but at a fraction of the cost, then the MPLS lines are retired.
Q. To what type of companies does Talari cater to and what is your sales strategy (direct/channels/through service providers)?
Talari sells to companies that are highly distributed. Usually to companies that have 20 or more locations and up to about a thousand locations. Our sales strategy is primarily channel based. We have a sales organization located throughout the world that assists the channel in pre-sales and deployment services. Many of our channel partners act as the trusted advisors and often as a Managed Service Provider for customers. Our strategy is to continue to expand our channel relationships throughout the world.
Q. What are the main technological advantages of Talari that make customers choose Talari over competition?
The Talari solution is differentiated from any other by virtue of the fact that we can do continuous unidirectional measurement of all possible WAN paths between any pair of locations, enabling us to make per-packet forwarding decisions rather than session based forwarding decisions, with sub-second reaction that allows us to adapt to ever-changing circuit quality. Other key features include intelligent link aggregation, packet replication, inbound multisource QOS, centralized orchestration and analytics, and superior scalability.
Q Do you have any special technology for assuring quality of real-time voice and video communications?
Yes. It is in real-time communications that Talari really shines. Other solutions move entire sessions from one connection to another to try to deal with problems. Those other solutions don’t anticipate problems but instead wait for the problem to occur before they make a decision to move the session to a new connection. Talari measures all available connections and bandwidth at all times to identify where problems are moment to moment. Since Talari anticipates where problems will be, it implements corrections such that the users don’t see the problems in the network. This is the key to great real-time performance for voice and video communications. Packet replication delivers another layer of reliability and QoE on top of that. With Talari, video runs smoothly and voice calls remain pristine avoiding the problems of dropped calls. Talari is the gold standard for unified communications.
Q. What is your view about the importance of security within SD-WAN. Should it be part of the vendor offering or is best of bread approach the right one?
SD-WAN solutions should either be placed behind a next-generation firewall, whether the NGFW capability is fully distributed or centralized and used together with “Internet backhaul”, or else used in conjunction with cloud-based security. The threat landscape changes so quickly that it is imperative to have a next-generation firewall with sandboxing to defend connections that have direct access to the Internet. Today security companies do not do a good job at true SD-WAN. The unification of Security and SD-WAN has not happened and it’s not likely to happen for a long time into the future despite what security vendors might claim. On the other hand, SD-WAN vendors don’t have the same security manpower or expertise as security companies. So for the next five years, the two solutions should work together in unison, each doing what each does best. Cloud-based security has made some inroads and actually complements a failsafe SD-WAN solution very well.
Q. The MEF is working on standards for SD-WAN interconnectivity. What is your view on this and is Talari supporting this work at the MEF?
Talari is always happy to work with standards bodies. On the issue of simple interconnectivity, because SD-WAN can be implemented as a pure overlay, interconnecting different networks, or one SD-WAN with another network – be that network SD-WAN or not – is not at all difficult, and can be done using existing routing and IPsec VPN standards. Because SD-WAN solutions, like WAN Optimization solutions before them, carry so much state, and are by nature a two-ended, our expectation is that in the short and medium term, it will be difficult to make progress on meaningful standardization of SD-WAN capabilities, and truly interoperate across multiple SD-WAN vendors, just as it turned out for WAN Optimization.
Q What are Talari’s goals for 2018 and where do you see Talari 3 years from now?
Talari’s three-year plan is to dramatically expand our footprint by partnering with the channel domestically and internationally. We have already established partnerships throughout much of the world and have already moved more than 65% of her business to be channel based. We intend to continue that trend and become virtually 100% channel. At the same time, we continue to expand our own sales organization working with the channel and presales and on installation services.
Read the response of 309 enterprises about their reasons for selecting SD-WAN
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