Industry Voices—Kerravala: SD-WAN provider Masergy launches Cisco's Webex

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Masergy teams up with long-time partner Cisco to offer Cisco's Webex as part of its Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) portfolio. (Pixabay)

On Thursday, Masergy, a provider of SD-WAN and SASE products announced, it has enhanced its current Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) solution by adding Cisco Webex. The partnership will allow the service provider to consolidate calling, Webex meetings and video into a single application experience.

Masergy already had a Broadsoft-based UC calling product with its own branded Masergy Communicator application for collaboration. The addition of Webex builds on the long history between the two companies as Masergy has been offering Cisco-based collaboration offerings since 2004.  

Customers certainly have a wide variety of ways for purchasing Webex but Masergy does bring a number of interesting differentiators. The first is the network, as Masergy customers have the option of adding its Managed SD-WAN Secure connectivity services. UCaaS deployments and SD-WAN migrations are often done together. 

My estimates are that about three-quarters of SD-WAN deployments are at least partially driven by shifting communications to the cloud. This makes sense because as communications move to the cloud, the traffic patterns of the WAN change. There is far less on-net traffic and significantly more branch-to-cloud or user-to-cloud traffic, which SD-WAN is optimized for. Running next generation communications on legacy networks just doesn’t make sense.

RELATED: Kerravala: How SD-WAN is transforming manufacturing operations

Again, similar to Webex, customers have no shortage of options for SD-WAN, but Masergy takes a different approach than many of its competitors. First, it’s a managed service provider so the experience it brings can help de-risk the deployment versus a do-it-yourself model. While SD-WANs provide a wide range of benefits, such as increased agility, improved application resiliency and lowers costs, they are more complicated. I’m certainly not saying don't evolve to SD-WAN as the positives far outweigh the negatives. 

I do, however, recommend that even the hardest core do-it-yourself organizations consider a managed service provider for at least part of the deployment or on-going operations. Masergy’s managed services are highly flexible and the company has had success selling co-managed services that enables businesses to do what they do best and use the managed service to augment their internal skills.

It’s biggest differentiator though, is its network. Masergy was founded in 2000 and built the network for real time apps, specifically video. The first “killer app," if you will, was Cisco Telepresence as it started to grow as Masergy turned up the network.  Almost of all the incumbent network operators had PSTN and/or frame and/or ATM networks and ran IP and MPLS over the top. And often have jitter metrics of 5 to 10 millisecond in North America and often higher in other areas where the network isn’t as robust. 

Because of the way the network was designed, Masergy has service level agreements of sub 1 milliseconds core to core, globally. One might look at the Masergy network and think it originally was a solution looking for a problem. While it had some early success with Cisco Telepresence, it never became the ubiquitously available service that many predicted. 

Recently, a new problem arose and that is video everywhere driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.  In reality, video was on the rise and we would have got to where we are now eventually, but it was accelerated by the pandemic.

Masergy’s SD-WAN solution is built on this high quality, low-latency backbone and customers that use it to carry the Cisco Webex traffic will likely have a better experience than they would with many of the bigger incumbents and certainly better than using a service provider that provisions the network using internet connections. This is particularly true for cross-country or global connections.

RELATED: Masergy goes bigger and bolder into SASE arena by taking best-of-breed approach

Lastly, Masergy recently introduced its SASE services, which include cloud based security capabilities.  In addition to SD-WAN, customers can buy firewall-as-a-service, CASB (cloud access security broker), secure web gateway, and zero trust networking. The ability to deliver these security capabilities from the cloud makes it ideal for work-from-anywhere. When employees do return to the office, Masergy’s SASE does include an on-premises component.  Cloud resident security services are great for small locations, but offices with thousands, or even hundreds, of people need local security and Masergy offers both.

Collaboration of all types—voice, video and messaging—are moving to the cloud, which is why Cisco has driven so much innovation into Webex. It’s fair to say that it had fallen behind many of its newer competitors, but it’s caught up and now is accelerating the AI roadmap with a vision of making virtual meetings 10x better than being in person. Masergy’s partnership gives businesses a “one stop shop” that combines a best in class cloud collaboration solution with a high quality network designed specifically for the rigors of video.

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long-term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to end-user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers. He can be reached at [email protected], and follow him @zkerravala and on YouTube.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by Fierce staff. They do not represent the opinions of Fierce.