RingCentral on SD-WAN: All About Choice

The software-defined WAN market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 70%, reaching $8 billion in 2021, IDC has forecasted. Enterprise adoption of UCaaS is, in part, fueling the interest in SD-WAN, according to Nemertes Research. But with rising demand for SD-WAN, at least one UCaaS provider – RingCentral – has observed some misinformation across its customer base.

The SD-WAN market, with some 60+ vendors by RingCentral's count, is confusing for customers, said Curtis Peterson, SVP of operations at RingCentral, in a No Jitter briefing. "And one thing [is] for sure – not all SD-WAN is created equal."

That's not to say that any one vendor is bad or any one vendor is getting it right and should be crowned king of the market, Peterson added. The differences are more along the lines of market approach and benefits delivered, he said. And when SD-WAN is leveraged along with UCaaS, the "co-benefits are infinitely high," Peterson said.

Indeed, they're "natural partners," as John Burke, principal research analyst and CIO at Nemertes Research, noted in a prepared statement. According to Nemertes Research, "SD-WAN reduces branch network outages by 95%, and slashes WAN management overhead by 50%, he said. "Together, SD-WAN and UCaaS combine to fully enable an Internet-only, cloud-first agile branching strategy: [T]hey deliver robust, resilient enterprise cloud communications services anywhere, with minimal overhead and lead time."

To help its customers better understand SD-WAN options and how they'll complement their UCaaS deployments, RingCentral today unveiled an SD-WAN certified partner program. SD-WAN technology from certified partners, which today includes CloudGenix, Cradlepoint, GTT Communications, Riverbed, VMware, and Windstream Enterprise, are pre-configured for out-of-the-box use with RingCentral's cloud communications and collaboration solutions -- making SD-WAN easier to deploy and optimize.

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Making the Grade

In developing its SD-WAN certification program, RingCentral took into account several key enterprise considerations, Peterson said. On a technical level, the SD-WAN product must support failover for any voice, video, or media stream that RingCentral supports. "They need to be able to go from ISP A to ISP B without there being any interruption of service," he said.

As a second criteria, RingCentral said the SD-WAN technology must improve quality of service with legacy phones and other hardware that don't support features of modern softphones like packet de-duplication and jitter control. With the older devices, he said, "there's no way to get our code inside ... so we wanted to see SD-WAN vendors that could improve the quality of the media stream kind of all on its own."

Visibility was a third key consideration, especially with more and more enterprises migrating from just voice toward more collaboration -- "and collaboration is a lot of things" – file sharing for one company, perhaps, and voice and video calls for another, he said. "You need visibility into that because you may need to grow your network or change your network a little more aggressively than in the past."

Additionally, RingCentral took into account vendors that "customers were already voting for with their feet," said Peterson, noting that RingCentral will continue working to certify other SD-WAN vendors as appropriate. There is no "magic bullet" in data networking, he concluded, -- but SD-WAN is an "unbelievably great technology with a bunch of vendors doing it very well."

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