HPE makes big SD-WAN play with $925M Silver Peak acquisition

Silver Peak's Unity WAN technology will slide into HPE subsidiary Aruba's portfolio and give it an immediate boost in the hot SD-WAN arena.

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Hewlett Packard Enterprise took a significant leap into the SD-WAN market with its offer to buy networking vendor Silver Peak for $925 million.

Silver Peak's Unity WAN technology will slide into HPE subsidiary Aruba's portfolio and give it an immediate shot in the competitive arm when it comes to the hot SD-WAN arena where Cisco, VMware and others are attracting enterprise IT dollars.

Founded in 2004 by David Hughes, who is still CEO, Silver Peak develops a variety of wide-area network technologies including WAN optimization and SD-WAN software.

"Our Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform is highly complementary to HPE's industry-defining SD-Branch offerings and it will become the centerpiece of Aruba's WAN edge strategy," Hughes wrote in a blog about the sale to HPE. "Upon closing the deal, we will become part of HPE's Aruba division, bringing together the industry's most comprehensive end-to-end secure networking portfolio from the data center to the campus, to branch and remote worker locations."

As applications continue to move to the cloud, remote working and mobile employees rise, and billions of IoT devices are added to the network, the SD-WAN market is growing quickly – or at least it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, HPE Aruba cites 650 Group research that says the market for SD-WAN will grow from $2.3 billion in 2020 to $4.9 billion in 2024. More recently, researchers at IDC noted that SD-WAN's yearly growth rate, which was nearly 40% until around March, fell to less than 1% in June. But that drop is understandable under the circumstances, said Brad Casemore, research vice president, datacenter networks, at IDC.

"This been a period of retrenchment for many, and we expect to get back rapid growth in 2021," Casemore said. "All of the requirements – secure access to the cloud and cloud access optimization – are still there and will continue to grow."

Indeed it is its edge-to-cloud SD-WAN, SD-Branch and Edge Services Platform families that Aruba is looking to enhance with Silver Peak's WAN technology.

Legacy WAN architectures are no longer viable and incur relatively high costs, compelling enterprises to invest in SD-WAN technology to ensure secure, scalable, and efficient connections from the edge of their network to a diverse mix of on-premises and cloud-based endpoints. "The need for edge-to-cloud architectures has never been more relevant as enterprises look to extend connectivity to branch locations and enable secure work-from-home experiences," said Keerti Melkote, president of intelligent edge for Hewlett Packard Enterprise and founder of Aruba Networks, in a statement. 

Aruba recently introduced its Edge Services Platform (ESP), which can analyze telemetry data generated from Wi-Fi or network switching gear and use it to automatically optimize connectivity, discover network problems and secure the overall edge environment. ESP, which the company said has been under development for over four years, not only builds a data lake of a customer's data center, campus, and SD-WAN information, but also combines it with statistics from some 1.5 billion data points generated daily by Aruba devices worldwide. ESP then applies its AI and machine-learning algorithms to troubleshoot issues before they become problems, the company stated. (See related story, Aruba AI platform aims to streamline management of edge networks

Aruba also recently enhanced its SD-Branch software with identity-based attack detection and intrusion prevention, and improvements to its SD-WAN Orchestrator to make it easier to deploy security features on a large scale. Aruba's SD-Branch software runs on its branch gateways and includes a variety of integrated features like a firewall that supports LAN, WAN, Wi-Fi networks, and segmentation as well integration with the company's ClearPass policy-management software and its cloud-based package Aruba Central. The package can integrate its data with partner security platforms such as Check Point, Palo Alto Networks and Z-Scaler.

Experts say the Silver Peak move is a positive one, though it does eliminate one of the few remaining independent SD-WAN technology vendors.

"Aruba gets more robust SD-WAN technology with Silver Peak, and they will benefit from getting their customer base [reportedly about 1,500 customers]," said Lee Doyle, principal analyst at Doyle Research and Network World blogger. "Aruba has a lot of big pieces for enterprise customers now with a strong SD-WAN offering to go with its Wi-Fi and SD-Branch."

Doyle said that while many of the SD-WAN vendors have fallen, including Viptela to Cisco and VeloCloud to VMware, there are a number of SD-WAN vendors that remain independent, including Aryaka, Cato, Fortinet and Versa.

"It's a tough market these days without a large partner," Doyle said.

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