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Dell Virtual Edge Platform takes SD-WAN to SPs, enterprises

Dell has unveiled an appliance for running an SD-WAN or virtual network functions. The Dell Virtual Edge Platform is aimed at service providers and large enterprises.

Dell has introduced an appliance for running virtual network functions and an SD-WAN from VeloCloud, Versa Networks or Silver Peak. The combination of SD-WAN and VNF could make the hardware appealing to communication service providers selling managed network services for branch offices.

This week, Dell, a unit of Dell Technologies, unveiled the Virtual Edge Platform 4600 as universal customer premises equipment (uCPE) CSPs could install at customer locations. The appliance runs SD-WAN and VNF software, such as WAN optimization, load balancers and security, on an Intel Xeon D-2100 processor.

Besides CSPs, Dell is targeting large enterprises, like a Boeing, USAA Bank or Fidelity, which have the resources to deploy and manage an SD-WAN fabric, said Jeffrey Baher, a senior director of product and technical marketing at Dell. For those customers, Dell is providing full support for the hardware and software.

While enterprise sales are possible, "I think they're really appealing to the service providers," Bob Laliberte, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, based in Milford, Mass., said of Dell. As an indicator, VeloCloud -- the largest of the three SD-WAN vendors -- sells mostly to CSPs. VMware acquired VeloCloud in November.

IDC predicts CSPs will account for more than half of the SD-WAN market by 2020 when it will top $6 billion. Since 2015, the overall market has been growing at an annual rate of 93% while CSP sales have been rising at a rate of 212%, according to IDC.

Dell Virtual Edge Platform needs more software to succeed

How successful Dell is with the VEP 4600 will depend on the number of software developers the company can bring to the uCPE platform, Laliberte said. "The value of the platform will be tied to the size of the validated solutions and the number of validated solutions that they start adding to that ecosystem."

Dell designed the VEP 4600 similar to a networking device with the power supply in the back and the ports in the front. "It doesn't look anything like our servers," Baher said.

Also, the Dell Virtual Edge Platform is built to move network packets like an edge router so it could replace such hardware in some network architectures, Baher said.

Many SD-WAN vendors have been marketing their products as edge router replacements. Last September, for example, Riverbed Technology refreshed its SteelConnect product with router features.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than half of the organizations performing WAN edge infrastructure refreshes will swap traditional routers for an SD-WAN appliance.

Dell plans to start shipping the VEP 4600 on April 24. The company will sell the hardware for a starting price of $1,500. Software and support are sold separately.

Meanwhile, Dell is looking for customers. "We've had conversations with a number of tier one operators [CSPs] in addition to a number of global 50 multinational corporations," Baher said.

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