The networking market has been nothing, if not rigid, for the last 20 years. Now in the space of a few short quarters, it’s suddenly heating up with talk of Software Defined Networks (SDN) and now even Software Defined WANs. Businesses are becoming more global and more decentralized while at the same time workforce mobility is challenging companies to provide a consistent experience wherever employees are. Companies that sell routers, like Cisco Systems, Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, Juniper Networks, and ZTE have been slow to react to the changing market dynamics, and now startup Glue Networks is bringing an innovative technology that could shake up this staid market. Is this a direct shot at the market leader Cisco Systems, or is this really Cisco Systems secret weapon? If you’re looking for a deep dive on the discussion, download the paper here.
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With business dynamics changing rapidly, enterprises are looking for more agility; they need to react more quickly to a fluid environment. Costs continue to be a primary concern as the economy is recovering but many budgets have not recovered to the same degree. New technologies and business opportunities like the “Internet of Things” promises to bring unprecedented visibility to business, but at the same time is creating tremendous complexity as businesses try to capture and process all of this data from all of these sources. Additionally, cloud/Software as a Service like Microsoft Office 365 are pushing the applications and data that businesses rely on outside of their data centers, stressing the Wide Area Network (WAN) which is the connection between headquarters and remote/worldwide sites.
For years Cisco Systems has been the undisputed leader in network routers, integrating features into their market-leading products that many IT organizations have not been able to utilize because of resource constraints. The very capabilities businesses need to be more aggressive in business might already be in their company’s data center, but how do they take advantage of these features?
Glue Networks has developed a solution that sits on top of the Cisco Systems routers that companies are most likely already using. This solution is software-based, there is no hardware to buy (or amortize) so the decision becomes much less risky for a business. The Glue Networks software helps companies get that agility and savings that they need without having to “rip and replace” the Cisco Systems routing equipment (that probably hasn’t fully depreciated yet.) Because Glue Networks operates on a leading brand of networking hardware instead of making their own, even the most risk averse CIO is probably open to a value proposition like this. What Glue does, in a nutshell is automate the WAN operation, allowing routers to change configurations on the fly, in order to be more responsive to business needs. It knows how applications behave and can optimize routers in an automated way, much the same way a car’s cruise control engages the throttle or the brakes to maintain speed.
Most companies today are using T1/E1 lines to tie their locations together. While these lines are very feature-rich for supporting remote applications, they are very costly and provide little bandwidth relative to their cost. While solutions providers are offering business-class broadband connectivity with huge bandwidth at a fraction of the cost of a T1/E1, some of the critical enterprise features that applications require are not present. Glue Networks allows a company to get the best of both worlds. A hybrid solution based on both T1/E1 and broadband can be created, giving a business the important features for the critical applications and plenty of bandwidth and low cost for all of the other less critical applications.
So the question remains, is this a threat to Cisco Systems? In reality, no. It actually adds more value and benefit for enterprises that have standardized on Cisco Systems products (as most of the market has.) In this case, Cisco Systems doesn’t have to worry about customers unplugging their products or defecting to other vendors, and because Glue Networks products are not only certified by Cisco Systems but are also on the Cisco price list, sold by Cisco salespeople, and enterprises can consider these products with confidence.
Clearly, as the market leader, Cisco Systems has the most at risk in this new world of software defined applications that are threatening the traditional hardware paradigms, but in this case, Glue Networks is actually helping shore up the Cisco Systems position by giving Cisco Systems another tool to help lead customers to the software-defined and automated future.
If you’re looking for a deep dive on the discussion, download the paper here.
Disclosure: My firm, Moor Insights & Strategy, like all research and analyst firms, provides research, analysis, advising, and/or consulting to many high-tech companies in the datacenter, including Glue Networks, cited in this article. No employees at the firm hold any equity positions with any companies cited in this column.