WAN Talk with Cliff Grossner, Infonetics Research – Part 1

By Steve Woo
Co-Founder and Vice President of Products, VeloCloud
January 16, 2015

A Look at the WAN Market Today: Post 1 (of 2) with Cliff Grossner of Infonetics Research, now part of IHS Inc.


VeloCloud’s VP of Products and Co-Founder Steve Woo recently spoke with Clifford Grossner, Ph.D.,(@cliffgrossner) Infonetics Research (now part of IHS Inc.) Directing Analyst for Data Center, Cloud, and SDN. We will present highlights from their conversation in two parts. This post #1 talks about ‘A Look at the WAN Market Today’ and some of the broader trends shaping today’s WAN market. Post #2 will cover ‘The WAN Market Trajectory’ with an exploration of where the WAN market might be headed in the near as well as more distant future.

Steve Woo:  Thank you for speaking with WAN-Talk. The WAN is undergoing a major transformation as more apps move to the cloud and workers become increasingly distributed. What does that market look like these days from your vantage point?

Cliff Grossner:  As you know, Infonetics has been tracking the WAN optimization space in particular for a long time and I issue a report once a quarter on market size, share, and forecast for data center and network equipment.

Our outlook on the WAN today is different than it would have been only 12 months ago. Back then, we thought of connecting a corporate office or head office with a branch office, probably with a device at each end, then having specialized functionality to optimize  utilization on the WAN link.

Today, we’re no longer just looking at the use of one type of link, be it an MPLS or an Internet  link, between the corporate office and a branch office. We’re now looking at load balancing across multiple link types, and the fact that WAN traffic doesn’t necessarily all flow through the central corporate office. Plus, control for WAN is migrating and moving to the cloud. So now we have a cloud service component that’s becoming part of the WAN market.

WOO:  How does hybrid WAN—which leverages the  Internet as a primary WAN connection in addition to private lines, and SD-WAN which applies SDN principles to achieve automation, agility and simplicity of managing an integrated hybrid WAN —fit with what you’re seeing in the market in general?

GROSSNER: I think the term ‘hybrid WAN’ might be a bit limiting, and I prefer ‘cloud-delivered WAN’ as a label. But the important part is that the control aspect is moving to the cloud, and you’re adding the new capability to load balance across multiple links. Cloud-delivered WAN, or Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN), also positions the market to take advantage of software-defined networking (SDN), where we know that over time the transport optical layer of the network will become programmable with more open APIs. There’s no reason that cloud-delivered control can’t start to tap into those capabilities as SDN gets deployed in the coming years.

WOO:  What about from the enterprise perspective. How are they viewing the WAN market?

GROSSNER:  Earlier this year, Infonetics did a North American survey on Cloud Service Strategy for Enterprises, where we looked at changes enterprises said they needed to make so they could move to cloud services—which we all know they’re adopting in larger and larger numbers. The enterprises we surveyed said they need to rethink their WAN. They need more bandwidth on the WAN, they need better performance, and they also need better application performance across the WAN. So one of the key drivers for the next generation WANis certainly going to be enterprises shifting to the cloud.

In that same survey, when we look at off-premises cloud service architectures, we see that over the next two years, the largest growth area that enterprises are planning for is the move to a hybrid cloud architecture. And you can’t do hybrid cloud without some sort of WAN involvement.

WOO:  What do you see as the biggest driver for the WAN market?

GROSSNER:  I think the first boom for WAN was data center consolidation. A few years ago, there was a shift from client/server computing into a data center consolidation phase. All of a sudden, the WAN became important, and it was owned by the enterprise as they consolidated their data centers. I think that touched off the innovations such as WAN optimization we saw in the early to mid 2000s.

Today, consolidation of data centers is more complete. There’s that still some going on, but it’s less of a driver. Instead, it’s migration to off-premises cloud services as well as mobility that are touching off the next wave, with the need to look at all the links between the user and the server, where the applications are running.

WOO:  Are there some vertical markets that are further ahead in adoption of this new era of cloud-delivered WAN?

GROSSNER:  First of all, I want to point out that this is a horizontal technology that spans multiple sectors and geographies. Where I’d look, though, are at verticals that have adopted mobility and BYOD (bring your own device) faster than others. We see that in verticals such as education, which tends to be very quick to pick up on those kinds of trends.

On the other hand, highly security-conscious verticals such as healthcare might take longer to embrace cloud-delivered WAN solutions. But at the same time, mobility is so important to the people working in healthcare—medical professionals don’t tend to work at a desk and need to move around as they work—that they’ll very much want to put in place mobility and cloud technologies.

So security consciousness will slow things down a little, but we can loop back and say that security across the WAN link is part of the functionality that we’d want to see further enhanced in WAN solutions in the future.

to be continued….Post #2 (of 2) will be published on Jan 26, 2015


WAN-Talk is an ongoing series of discussions between VeloCloud and various industry luminaries about the state and prospects of the wide-area networking (WAN) market.

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