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Talari Gets a Refresh With a New CEO & SD-WAN Strategy

Kelsey Kusterer Ziser

Patrick Sweeney, new CEO of SD-WAN vendor Talari Networks, has a plan to grow the company using a channel-focused approach that worked with his previous company, SonicWall.

Most recently VP of marketing and product management, Sweeney spent about 16 years at SonicWall Inc. (Nasdaq: SNWL) -- which started as a small security and networking company that was bought by private equity firm, later owned by Dell, and eventually spun off into an independent company in 2016.

Sweeney says he helped grow SonicWall from working with existing customers to also taking on a channel-centric model, as the company transformed from an underachiever to having a strong industry reputation. He sees similarities in Talari Networks and aims to implement a strategy to grow quickly with the marketplace, acquire a bigger footprint, and focus on achieving a 100% channel-driven model. (See SD-WAN Provider Talari Hires SonicWall VP as New CEO and SD-WAN Supplier Talari Targets Carrier-Leery Enterprises.)

"When you're in a hyper-growth market, you can't really afford to try and do absolutely everything yourself," he says. "Today VARs, MSPs, managed service providers -- they service a great part of the market, and by working with them, you still engage directly with the customers." He added: "We see a grand opportunity to be able to scale faster by working with the channel while still providing very good architectural support for the customers themselves."

A ten-year-old company headquartered in San Jose, Calif., Talari was in the SD-WAN-related space before it was called SD-WAN. Dan Conde, cloud platforms analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) , says of the 30 or so SD-WAN companies in the market, Talari has kept a lower profile but has a respectable product and customer base.

"Talari is one of these odd companies that were really ahead of everyone in SD-WAN," says Conde. "I believe they've been under-appreciated, and some of their core technology has been licensed to some other big vendors, too. It's a mature product, and if you look at their number of customers, it's pretty respectable."

While there's a microscope on the SD-WAN vendor horse race, Conde says ESG's research shows an interesting segmentation in the market highlighting how companies want to consume SD-WAN. One customer segment has chosen the DIY method of purchasing an SD-WAN device and managing it themselves; another wants SD-WAN as a service and opts to work with a managed service provider like Masergy or MetTel. A third customer segment works with major telcos such as Verizon or Sprint.

Joe Skorupa, VP and distinguished analyst for Gartner Inc. , expects Talari to focus less on working with traditional service providers like Verizon and AT&T, and more with over-the-top managed service providers. The fact that Talari can connect networks from multiple providers is an asset, in addition to benefiting from a market in transition, says Skorupa.

"Talari has had very solid technology -- their link bonding, load balancing and traffic steering are very good," he adds. "So, the market has gone through a transition, and it's a chance for them to reposition. Frankly, the technology they have is more valuable today than it was back then."

Talari's technology around IP telephony and unified communications is solid, says Skorupa, which lends itself well to targeting verticals like call centers, for example. He adds that VeloCloud Networks Inc. and Silver Peak Systems Inc. are examples of vendors that are also strong in this area.

Skorupa met with Sweeney recently at a Gartner tech startup CEO gathering in San Mateo, Calif., and says Sweeney both understands the technical side of Talari's business and has a solid operational approach and strategic mindset.

"Patrick was part of the team that grew SonicWall significantly and was able to get through a couple of different financial transactions with them and be helpful there," says Skorupa. "When you're a smaller company and you're competing with larger companies, the ability to raise capital matters and having someone with his track record certainly is an asset."

One factor Talari and the other SD-WAN startups will have to face is competition from bigger players. Cisco recently acquired Viptela to get into the SD-WAN race, and earlier this month, VMware countered by offering to buy Velocloud. (See Cisco Snaps Up Viptela and VeloCloud 'Pours Gas' on VMware's Carrier Ambitions.)

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— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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