Gartner SD-WAN Edge Magic Quadrant 2020: Aryaka no longer a part and why that is a good thing!
The new 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for WAN Edge Infrastructure is finally out.
Aryaka Networks, which had the unique distinction of being the *only* fully managed WAN/SD-WAN provider in the 2019 and dubbed a “visionary,” is not included in the current version.
Let’s first put the rumors to rest.
This is not a surprise. We asked to be pulled out.
Gartner SD-WAN Magic Quadrant 2020: Why we pulled out?
Arguably, the 2X2 square inch MQ is the most valuable piece of real estate in the B2B Industry. Companies fight, escalate and cajole to be in included in this simple quadrilateral, measuring their relative presence in millimeters as this simple metric tries to make sense of the inherent complexities of the world we compete in, with a static dot that is so omnipresent that it conveys vision, leadership, execution, and movement in a manner that is so simple, and yet so powerful. Therein lies the “magic”.
So, which organization in its right mind would not want to sit on that prime property? Isn’t that blasphemy?
The simple explanation is that Gartner Magic Quadrant is really designed for vendors selling traditional SD-WAN boxes. These boxes are best suited for do-it-yourself (DIY) deployments or when they are sold and managed by traditional Telcos or MSPs. The architecture they subscribe to is really to send traffic as an overlay on the internet and to work with a cloud management portal that helps to centrally configure policy and provide visibility. Most DIY implementations are for high-density, low-cost regional deployments unless they are sold and managed through a Telco/MSP, in which case they can address global deployments.
Aryaka, fortunately, does not fit this model, and the more we tried to fit the criteria, the more we lost our identity and the more undeclared value we left on the table.
Think of Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone as the next-generation of personal communications and being damned for its lack of push-button features. Or Elon Musk raising the bar on battery-powered EVs, but being dinged for not having a fuel tank. In some ways, we were experiencing the same discomfort, trying to align with the criteria of the MQ that was really targeted towards traditional flip phones or gas-guzzling vehicles. It simply was not a reflection of who we were or are!
It became apparent, that being included in this MQ would be a disservice to not just our prospects, customers, and partners, but also Gartner’s clientele as well.
That had to change.
Why Aryaka does not fit in the Magic Quadrant?
Just consider these five primary data points that are central to Aryaka’s offering, but orthogonal to the Gartner WAN Edge MQ criteria –
1. Aryaka does NOT sell boxes even though we innovate on our own WAN Edge service nodes
We have a consumption-based service model. Our WAN/SD-WAN service edge nodes (called ANAPs) are delivered as part of our SmartConnect connectivity-as-a-service offering and never sold independently. This obviously has a ripple effect on our go-to-market and service packaging, which is aligned with the needs of customers that are looking for a managed service, but really does not fit with those wanting to purchase a low-cost box. We also don’t want to be confused with these low-cost SD-WAN box vendors, as that is the wrong target persona for us and creates mismatched expectations for a potential prospect as well as for Aryaka sales, channels, and customer support stakeholders. For this reason, when we refreshed our portfolio in early 2020, we didn’t call ourselves an SD-WAN vendor or talk about managed SD-WAN, as much as put the spotlight on Cloud-First WANs, which is a much broader philosophy and value proposition compared to traditional SD-WAN plays.
2. Aryaka embraces a PoP-based architecture that facilitates agile service delivery globally
We have built out a high-performance global network with service delivery and intelligence in our L2 meshed global points of presence (PoPs), with the ANAPs really being a service extension of these PoPs. Since our ANAPs mostly connect to the PoPs, we do not need a lot of varied connectivity options. The service intelligence in the PoP allows our ANAPs to be relatively lightweight in terms of features, and we don’t need a complex stack or a lot of bells and whistles. However, the Gartner WAN Edge MQ is really focused on the features in the box, and the box itself and has no way to account for the capabilities or intelligence in the Aryaka PoPs.
3. Aryaka delivers a fully managed, Cloud-First WAN and is NOT built for DIY deployments
As a fully managed offering, we take end-to-end responsibility for the implementation, management, deployment, troubleshooting and end-to-end SLA. We focus on the experience and are not built for DIY deployments. We, therefore, do not need to include a lot of bells and whistles on the box or the cloud portal for our customers to operationally manage them, because our customers really expect us to do that and are not looking for a lot of self-service options. Consequently, we have built out sophisticated automation, orchestration, and monitoring capabilities that allow us to scale this across thousands of customers and tens of thousands of sites globally.
4. Aryaka focuses on Enterprise customers only, not small businesses
Because of our global network, and PoP-based architecture, we also don’t play in small, low-cost deployments as many other SD-WAN players do, who focus on the small and medium business (SMB) space. Our focus has always been mid-to-large enterprises with complex requirements. The value add we bring to small local WANs is negligible, and we don’t even participate in this segment. However, the Gartner Magic Quadrant gives greater weight to small footprint WANs and for deployment flexibility with small platforms.
5. Aryaka’s differentiation is an integrated architecture for best possible Application Performance and Service Experience
We believe WAN transformation is difficult and needs to look at the complexity value chain. Consequently, we not only look at the on-premises device with flexible bandwidth connectivity but also the last mile (procurement, provisioning, and monitoring as required), the mid-mile (with our private L2 global network), multi-cloud networking (across public, private, and SaaS providers) built-in multi-segment WAN optimization, 24×7 NOCs, and end-to-end visibility, all delivered as a managed service. In their 2019 MQ for WAN Edge Infrastructure, Gartner called Aryaka an “All-in-one SD-WAN player.”
Typically, this architecture requires an OEM vendor like the ones covered in the WAN Edge Infrastructure report, with a telco (or a set of telcos depending on geographical coverage) and/or a managed service provider. Many times, systems integrators also get into the mix. Aryaka absolves all this complexity by integrating these different moving parts and is uniquely positioned to be combine the power of the service edge device and the global network with multi-cloud service PoPs and the managed services offering. Customers simply love the experience they get as a result since it abstracts complexity and delivers simplicity.
Ironically, Aryaka’s capabilities mean that we actually should straddle two or more of Gartner’s MQ criteria. One can state that Aryaka only partially fulfills the requirements of a particular MQ, but common sense would easily show that what Aryaka brings to the table actually requires multiple categories to map. The future state for other vendors and providers is different and represents where Aryaka is today. Terminologies like leaders, niche players or visionaries are really dependent on the relative vantage point.
The whole here is greater than the sum of the MQ parts, and that’s one of the reasons customers love and reward us with high Net Promoter Scores (NPS). This is also reflected in all the reviews we get from our customers, including in Gartner’s Peer Review ‘Voice of the Customer’ surveys, where we are the only managed provider present in these surveys and enjoy high ratings both for the quality and quantity of scores!
There are a few secondary data points as well, which made us a misfit to this MQ –
1. Revenue attribution is extraordinarily tricky and inconsistent, even though we make more revenue!
The MQ and most of the analyst reports we see in the Industry are really geared towards recognizing either box-sales and revenue (which is usually attributed to SD-WAN), while the management, connectivity, and support costs are generally attributed to a managed provider.
In the case of Aryaka, we keep our pricing model extraordinarily simple and focused on a consumption-based approach that doesn’t break down our costs for edge devices, management, support, etc., and is really focused on the service and connectivity a particular site to which subscribes connect. This model delivers a significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO) for our customers and makes it simpler to do adds, moves, and changes, ensuring they can meet the dynamic needs of their business gracefully.
However, this approach is not aligned with how most analysts attribute revenue. So, even though we actually make *more* revenue compared to a majority of the vendors in the Gartner WAN Edge Magic Quadrant, and manage more complex, high-value sites for enterprises, analysts simply cannot fit us into their models, and artificially create attribution mixes that are inconsistent with our business model, inaccurately creating a perception that we are more expensive compared to box vendors.
We are more expensive compared to the box vendors because we don’t just ship a box and pass the buck to an SI or an SP. We actually integrate all aspects of delivering bandwidth, support, a global network, WAN optimization, 24×7 monitoring with global NOCs, and more – essentially all the elements an enterprise requires for their WAN transformation initiative. With integrated security and cloud networking, and last-mile management, customers experience tremendous value from this.
2. Our vision is broader than that of the WAN Edge Infrastructure MQ
While we were deemed a “visionary,” our vision is misaligned from the criteria, purpose, and vision of this particular MQ. We look at this from the lens of not just shipping a box, but rather delivering a service with an unparalleled experience. Most box vendors CANNOT do this.
We can deliver a service with a tremendous amount of consistency, end-to-end SLAs, and cloud-normalization at almost any site globally. Most telcos and MSPs are CHALLENGED to do this. They can perhaps service their customers in certain regions but find it hard to do so globally. This results in a poor telco experience.
Aryaka was always designed to be an “as-a-service” offering from Day 1. Management was never an afterthought. The vision of SASE that Gartner is promoting now is how the Aryaka architecture was built out, i.e., to deliver network and security services in a converged manner, leveraging our global points-of-presence. Today, even Cloud Service Provider (CSPs) have built-out points of presence globally as they recognize the strategic value of the WAN in delivering a better application experience. However, the multi-cloud is a problem for them. With Aryaka, we take care of normalizing multi-cloud networking as well and can serve as a cloud on-ramp in many cases too.
Aryaka is comfortable to be in a category of one!
Other box vendors and telcos, and even CSPs, must evolve considerably to get to a target architecture that Aryaka is able to deliver today! Those following the industry know the challenges that even an industry leader like Cisco is facing in trying to attempt this transition, and most telcos are hit with MPLS migration headwinds and the move to cloud in other cases, leaving their offerings vulnerable for next-generation WAN requirements. Aryaka fits into this sweet spot. Unfortunately, there isn’t yet an MQ that can capture this, and we would be a category of one in this case.
Therefore, us being represented in an MQ that can only consider a partial view of our capabilities and an inconsistent view of our vision, simply creates an unfair value proposition for both our customers as well as Gartner’s customers. We felt there was a broader narrative that we bring to the table that fortunately is more aligned with customer requirements.
Is Aryaka dis-engaging from Gartner?
No. Aryaka has excellent relationships with the Gartner analysts and deeply respects intellectual capital, knowledge and relationships they bring to the table. They are rightfully a market leader. Their treatment of vendors in these Magic Quadrants is, at times, simply a reflection of how the mainstream vendors align with a particular category. Enough vendors or providers need to be in a category for it to have critical mass and make business sense.
A category of one, no matter how innovative, would have to be retrofitted or left out till enough vendors align with that approach. To their credit, Gartner tried to give Aryaka a home.
This is not unique to Gartner, as we see most industry analysts having the same conundrum. Many of them openly acknowledge it. The model is a bit hard to evolve and we recognize that.
We will continue to work with Gartner and other analysts to ensure our value proposition is conveyed out to their clients in other formats outside MQ-like documents.
For example, we are covered in some of these reports and expect to have continued coverage in such reports moving forward. However, some of them may not entirely be aligned to the Aryaka value proposition for the reasons mentioned above.
Competitive landscape for managed SD-WAN services
Magic Quadrant for Network Services, Global
Gartner Peer Insights ‘Voice of the Customer’ WAN Edge Infrastructure
Solution comparison for SD-WAN
Cool vendors in Enhanced Internet Services and Cloud Connectivity
Critical capabilities for WAN Edge Infrastructure
Market Trends: SD-WAN and NFV for Enterprise Network Services
4 Recommendations for Cross-Border Data Communications Over the Internet in China
WAN Practices to Optimize Application Performance
5 Options to Secure SD-WAN based Internet access
Aryaka SD-WAN Service Promise
So, what does this mean for Aryaka prospects and customers?
We feel that Aryaka, not being in this particular MQ, would provide greater clarity to prospects and customers, and that they don’t confuse us with DIY-box vendors at face value, or with pure-play telcos that don’t own the WAN edge technology or service delivery architectures. This is actually a big deal in terms of qualifying prospects that our solution is the right fit for. We can better position ourselves against problems they are trying to solve, versus discussing our position against vendors that truly don’t compete with us. This can save a lot of time both ways.
Meanwhile, we continue to be customer obsessed on delivering value and that won’t change.
Our innovation engine is firing with tremendous enhancements across multiple areas of technology, service delivery and commercial aspects of the solution. For example, just in the past months of 2020, we have –
Top use-cases that Aryaka is increasingly relevant are therefore for enterprises that are-
If CIOs are tired of fragmented do-it-yourself solutions, or complex MPLS contracts, or non-responsive telcos, giving Aryaka a try is the easiest, “no-risk, high-reward” thing to do.
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What does it mean to Aryaka channel partners?
Aryaka partners must embrace how we fit vis-à-vis other box vendors or traditional telcos. They can therefore more elegantly position our value-proposition as an integrated technology and service provider and as one of the best in the Industry.
Channel partners can continue to focus on positioning Aryaka to customers that are demanding agility, simplicity and a quality of experience that only Aryaka can provide.
Aryaka’s ability to demonstrate accelerated time to value means new contracts can be won faster. Because we offer a greater share of the WAN value, our contract sizes and site MRRs are also larger. Aryaka customers tend to stay for longer durations and come back to expand with more sites and services add-ons generating greater profitability for partners.
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What does it mean for Service Providers, Cloud Service Providers, and Technology partners?
Aryaka’s value proposition continues to stay relevant, where regional service providers and SIs can partner with Aryaka to offer global site connectivity in a highly predictable manner. Aryaka’s multi-cloud services fabric backbone with physical connectivity from our PoPs, can also serve as a “Cloud on-ramp” for some CSPs and service providers.
Our customers and partners can feel confident that they are working with a company focused on accelerating their business momentum, as much as ours. Despite all the things 2020 has thrown at us personally and across as the Industry, it has been a good year of growth for the company. We’ve hired top talent, won numerous awards, introduced new offerings, are expanding new points-of-presence globally and our business enjoys healthy margins and we are achieving EBITDA breakeven.
The Future – is about Integration! (SASE?)
The industry recognizes and desperately needs the trend that Aryaka is espousing, to break its shackles from the box-based architectures and fragmented security stacks of the past. If enterprises truly want to undertake digital transformation, they need to look towards architectures that allow them to do that.
Gartner has put a stake in the ground seeding the category of Secure Access Service Edge (SASE). Another acronym could emerge. At a simplistic level, it represents the convergence of network and security, delivered as-a-service. While this may not be the end state, it certainly represents a beginning that will probably represent the next evolution. Silos will not drive innovation. An integrated approach is key
While most vendors posture, in reality, the target SASE architecture is quite complex and one that will take many years to achieve. One can see some of the mergers and acquisitions being driven in recent times to accelerate the SASE architecture.
Interestingly enough, Aryaka has organically built a number of these components that are readily relevant to the SASE architecture, and with its differentiated POP-based approach, multi-cloud services fabric, edge foot print, security integration and a well-oiled services delivery mechanism – is very positioned to address these needs, compared to many others in the industry today.
The freedom of not being “boxed-in”
Our DNA has always been to “think outside the box”.
So, not being boxed in to a particular category allows us to freely express ourselves and reassert our identity and market leadership with greater clarity.
Interestingly, during the 25 years of my career in the industry, I’ve always been proud to share when busineses and categories I was leading were positioned as “Leaders” or “Visionaries” in the Gartner MQ or other such reports.
For the first time in my career, funnily enough, I’m equally proud that we’re not included in a particular report.
That is a good thing.