VMware partner Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES) is a $1.9 billion company that offers products and services for consumer internet service, enterprise managed networks, and satellite network management and equipment worldwide. The company serves more than 500 enterprise customers globally, with more than 436,000 network sites under management, including 50,000 managed SD-WAN endpoints. Both an equipment manufacturer and services provider, Hughes manages its own global network operations centers (NOC) and security operations centers (SOC), providing 24×7 support and serves its customers with on-the-ground field maintenance and 400 carrier partners.
“Our legacy goes back half a century to our humble beginnings in a suburban garage—an original start-up,” said Mike Tippets, vice president, Hughes. “We’re the company that first connected Walmart with a distributed enterprise network. Now we’re proud to say that Gartner, Frost & Sullivan, and Vertical Systems Group have all recognized Hughes as a leading provider of SD-WAN service in the U.S. and globally.”
A history of innovation leads to success
Hughes has been working with SD-WAN since before it was even called SD-WAN. The company has provided wide area managed networks to enterprises for more than 40 years, from the Walmart network to remote oil and gas systems to multi-state lottery networks and a multinational system that monitors nuclear activity. In response to customer needs, Hughes developed their own WAN optimization technologies to improve customers’ network performance. From that base they created an SD-WAN solution to address their customers’ growing needs.
A longtime VMware customer for data center and IT operations solutions, “Hughes started with VMware SD-WAN in 2019, recognizing the market leadership qualities of the product and the advantages of its cloud-forward deployment model, which is very different from our own defined-network model,” said Tippets. “It was a great addition for our portfolio given how complementary it is to our other solutions.”
Hughes has been successful with SD-WAN, deploying more than 50,000 sites globally in four years. “We have had the advantage of being engaged and out in front for essentially the entire time this market has existed,” said Tippets. “Our customer base leans to large and highly distributed enterprises, often with hundreds, if not thousands, of sites.”
Tippets added that it takes a fair bit of technical skill to architect and configure the best version of an SD-WAN solution to meet the needs of each customer. The underlay connectivity, SD-WAN overlay, and the security layer must all work together seamlessly to deliver a full SD-WAN solution. “This level of sophistication and integration is critical to ensure the customer gets the full value out of their SD-WAN initiative, and it is not usually present in its entirety in any organization except for the most advanced IT and MSP organizations,” said Tippets. “Very few providers have the expertise, experience, and desire to roll up their sleeves and deliver a best-fit SD-WAN solution that really tailors each and every element of the package to the unique needs of the customer. At Hughes we thrive on developing the right answer to every challenge.”
How Hughes serves customers with SD-WAN
Hughes specializes in large retail environments, connecting branch locations to the corporate data center, to each other, and more recently, to SaaS and cloud services. These customers need SD-WAN for access to enterprise systems, security of business and customer data, PCI compliance for payment transactions, and a superior customer experience when the customer interacts with any on-site technology. Many customers need fast access to real-time or near-real-time services and apps such as voice over IP, video, recommendation engines, point of sale and loyalty transactions. Tippets added that voice computing, AI-driven loyalty programs, omni-channel transactions, computer aided vision, and robotics/RPA are starting to appear and drive the need for improved cloud performance.
“Consistent and predictable application performance, no matter the available infrastructure, is critical,” said Tippets. “Our customers need an agile infrastructure that allows for easy ramp-up and wind-down of new technology and processes, plus a simplified approach to IT management and an easier way to isolate and resolve issues. Hughes and VMware SD-WAN can provide it. In addition to our incredible customer base, we have an advantage as a proven service provider, the experience of what it takes to deploy SD-WAN successfully, and at a scale few others can achieve.”
The VMware advantage
When they were choosing an SD-WAN partner, Hughes tested many SD-WAN products head-to-head. “VMware stood out as a great fit for us,” said Tippets. “It met all our technical feature requirements matching customer demand, our high-touch GTM approach, and the platform was designed for a multi-tenant service provider environment. The cloud-forward nature of the platform and the differentiation of the cloud gateway architecture also stood out.”
Tippets called out VMware Dynamic Multipath Optimization™ (DMPO) technology, noting: “DMPO dramatically improves the user experience and application availability at the edge, which is essential in driving SaaS adoption across enterprise customers and enabling strategic investments.”
He added that several Hughes customers, “Specifically asked for VMware SD-WAN as we engaged them, so clearly there is market pull for the product. The cloud-hosted network service elements have not shown any signs of downtime, and VMware partner support teams are great at helping us adopt and deploy new capabilities that come out and address any challenges we encounter during deployments.”
SD-WAN optimization, AI, and onward to SASE
Looking at the future of SD-WAN, Tippets sees continued emphasis on cloud enablement, cloud deployment, and edge development. Enterprises will continue to move assets and resources to the cloud, and SD-WAN will continue improving cloud access and performance. The market will value the ability to reduce deployment complexity by leveraging cloud gateways and cloud-compute to make SD-WAN configuration and performance decisions.
Like every other technology area, AI is having a big impact on SD-WAN and the network, said Tippets. “We see it on the product side, with AI being introduced into the core SD-WAN platforms, and we are deploying it on the delivery side, applying AIOps to improve network performance in the underlay and remediation. It is also opening more areas where we can offer co-management options for customers who want the ability to perform certain network functions.”
Tippets concluded that Hughes sees a fast-growing focus on tighter security integration. “As SD-WAN and security converge at the thinning branch edge into a SASE platform, we expect to see the evolving WAN connectivity landscape, including 5G and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, drive innovation in SD-WAN optimization technology to connect far-flung distributed branch locations and remote users to cloud services more efficiently,” said Tippets. “The movement of users from the traditional branch network secured by a physical SD-WAN edge to a perimeter-less mobile environment, including the home, will require SASE platforms to secure users and devices from everywhere and anywhere. This will drive the movement to zero trust architectures within a SASE framework as a primary method of securing users and protecting digital assets.”
 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Managed Network Services
 Frost & Sullivan Radar Report N. American Managed SD-WAN Services Market
 Vertical Systems Group US SD-WAN Leaderboard