ZPE presented at Networking Field Day 26 on Sept 16, 2021 and I will be honest, at first I couldn't figure out where to put ZPE in terms of a product and service category. As they were a first time NFD presenter and I had not heard of them before I was asking myself, are they a remote console server replacement for the likes of Raritan, OpenGear, and others? Are they an SD-WAN solution? Do you use them for routing and switching? Are they really focus on Out-of-Band (OOB) or Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP)? It turns out you can use them for all or just part of those things.
In my current role, I am a consumer of remote console and remote access solutions, mainly for lab and proof of concept purposes, as that is how we help many of our customer in validating their IPv6 configurations. For our IPv6 training at HexaBuild we will more commonly use Apache Guacamole and provide access directly via ssh, web and remote desktop which are all natively supported in Guacamole.
While ZPE can certainly do many of these functions, there is a far more compelling use case for organizations that have many distributed branch locations and do not have remote hands or the cost of truck rolls to support the site are very high. Rene Neumann gave an presentation on the ZPE Systems' Nodegrid and ZPE Cloud to do Branch Orchestration. I recommend checking out this part of the presentation to learn how you can leverage ZPE, their cloud options and drive toward Infrastructure as Code from the earliest points of deployment.
What is interesting about what ZPE is doing is starting from Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) without necessarily having to build out all the initial infrastructure you require to get many ZTP solutions up and running. They combine the ZPE Cloud and on-premises gear deployment to make this Day 0 to Day 1 to Day 2 workflow actually make sense. If you have ever tried to do an initial deployment of a network you know how hard it is to automate all that work. At a minimum you need an Intel NUC or a VM on your laptop to run all the services, store initial code, along with templates and configuration files. ZPE takes care of doing all that workflow. They can't build your configuration files for you but they can make it possible for you to load those and set things up without the need to sending someone to the site.
I am glad someone is providing some competition for Raritan, OpenGear and Cradlepoint - it will likely push them all to provide better capabilities and at the same time put some pressure on traditional networking vendors to do better around Day 0 to Day 2 lifecycle management.
You can also check out Dr. Peter Welcher's LinkedIn post about ZPE. He covers a lot of the other capabilities so it is worth a read! A.J. Murray and Tim Bertino did an Art of Network Engineering podcast about NFD26.