When people read about networking, they often hear about the big players in the market. The Ciscos and Junipers of the world. The same is true with SD-WAN, though Maybe a slightly smaller scale. Yet all too often in the networking market, the most innovative vendors aren’t necessarily the biggest. The same is true for Secure SD-WAN.
At the New York WAN Summit last year, I moderated a panel about SD-WAN. One panel member was part of an IT team whose global network was managed by a company out of Zurich, a company that offered an SD-WAN appliance with an integrated security stack and identity management as a monthly, managed Secure SD-WAN service.
I was intrigued.
At the time, none of the biggest SD-WAN brands were even close to that kind of offer. Not Viptela, who’s now part of Cisco, nor Velocloud, now owned by VMware. Silver Peak and Riverbed were coming from WAN optimization; security was still something of a fringe offering. In fact, the only SD-WAN vendor that I knew offering an SD-WAN appliance architecture with integrated security was Versa Networks who primarily sells to carriers and service providers.
This managed service provider, called Open Systems, had done what most of the vendors had yet to achieve and the carriers selling those SD-WAN appliances were only talking about — delivering a managed Secure SD-WAN service. And even more remarkable? The user loved them. He spoke so highly about the responsiveness and professionalism of their support team, something not to be taken lightly considering carriers are notorious for their customer support.
I tracked down some of the Open System people at the show and met with their New York vice president, Andy Weiss. I liked what he had to say so much that last week I flew to Zurich to see their facilities myself.
INSIDE OPEN SYSTEMS
Open Systems might be new in the US, but it’s in fact far from being a startup. The company has been in operation for over twenty-five years. Its roots are in securing global Swiss banks, insurance companies and manufacturers, with more than 4,500 locations under management. They count a New York non-government organization (NGO) with 180 locations around the world as an Open Systems customer. They also have a number of international Fortune 500 manufacturers under their network and security management.
Their offering is unique. It’s a Chinese menu of sorts that blend what is traditionally viewed as SD-WAN with a full security stack, including multi-factor authentication and remote VPN access — and more. Currently, more than 43 products are part of their virtualized service offering, including Snort, Carbon Black, and Airlock.
The service is delivered on servers sized for desired functionality; free hardware upgrades are available when the need arises. Open Systems also uses a suite of best-of-breed technologies, with migration to alternative technologies when a better solution becomes preferable. As for SOC services, they currently use Carbon Black’s endpoint security software. By maintaining a catalogue of standard software options for all customers, Open Systems manages operations with the accuracy of a Swiss watch.
Another important aspect is their unique co-managed solution. Through the single-pane-of-glass, operations staff, as well as authorized customers, can access all tickets and every single configuration change. A transparency is provided that is seldom available to traditional carrier customers.
Visiting their headquarters, I was struck by the NOC/SOC operations. Statistics for all incidents — including response time, resolution time and, more remarkably, customer rating — are displayed prominently on a large screen in the operations center and throughout their building.
Open Systems takes customer feedback seriously and incident ratings support a continuous improvement culture. This is likely the reason their Net Promoter Score is the highest that I have ever seen for any managed network services company — 71. The majority of carriers, with few exceptions, are under 30.
Their NOC service follows the sun from Zurich, Switzerland to Sydney, Australia, where they have another unique cultural approach: all the staff in Sydney are from the operations center in Zurich. The staff rotate “down under” for six months, which provides a continuity of support and relationships with their customers. It also improves the communications across the day, since all the staff work together and personally know each other. Every employee with a technical background serves in operations, which results in highly skilled network and security experts. The most experienced engineer on duty is the one responding to any ticket opened. I witnessed an average response time to incidents in the range of one minute. Not bad for a managed service provider.
Open Systems is not for everyone. It’s not the least expensive and if you want to manage your own SD-WAN, this is not the solution. It’s also based on an x86 appliance, which some will like and others will hate. But Open System is delivering a feature-rich, well-managed service. If you want managed security with your SD-WAN, Open Systems is worth a look.