SDN tools increase WAN efficiency

The enterprise WAN can be a daunting operational challenge.

Configuring, maintaining and changing WAN infrastructure can be a nightmare given the distributed nature of the beast and all the remote touch points, but emerging Software Defined Networking (SDN) tools promise to make these operations more efficient.

Usually touted as a data center tool, SDN can be used to automate and manage WAN operations, says Zeus Kerravala, principal of ZK Research. WAN issues are hard to address because of the dispersed nature of the resources, he says. "There's no perfect way of making changes to the WAN," but "SDN brings automation and orchestration from a centralized location and allows you to react faster."

More than data center nets, the WAN is a bigger headache for customers, especially those that are IT constrained, Kerravala says. And major IT trends such as SaaS, private clouds, BYOD, mobility and voice/data convergence are adding extra WAN stress, according to analyst Lee Doyle of Doyle Research. WAN links now require improved security, lower latency, higher reliability and support for any device in any location to accommodate these trends.

"The WAN or branch is ripe for disruption" through SDN, Doyle says. SDN vendors are "trying to simplify the mess we have with branch operations."

In fact, for two years running the members of the Open Network User Group (ONUG) have identified SDN WANs as the No.1 use case, according to Nick Lippis of Lippis Enterprises, a founding member of ONUG.

In fact, a number of start-ups are intent on using SDN to make WANs more efficient, including the likes of Glue Networks, CloudGenix and Viptela. Here's a look at their different approaches:

* Glue Networks is targeting Cisco's installed base of WAN routers with its SDN WAN offering, and in fact Cisco includes Glue products on its price list and will compensate its sales force for selling them. Glue says its addressable market is the $12 billion worth of 16 million Cisco WAN routers installed globally, which the company expects to reach 23 million in 2017.

Glue's Gluware orchestration software runs in the cloud and provides a cloud-based service for turning up remote sites and teleworkers worldwide. It is designed to lower the cost of private WAN networking by automating those operations and handling ongoing maintenance, monitoring, life-cycle management and feature extension.

The software automates the provisioning of voice, video, wireless, LAN networking, IP addressing, PKI security, firewalls, VLANs and ACLs, and allows users to configure a meshed, spoke-to-spoke, low latency infrastructure that is QoS-enabled, the company says.

Glue's products are essentially a software-defined dynamic multipoint VPN offered as a monthly software-as-a-service subscription. It includes a central policy-based controller, applications with "CCIE intelligence," and an API to configure the OS using the applications.

* CloudGenix is offering a software-defined enterprise WAN (SDEwan) designed for hybrid clouds and a mobile workforce. SDEwan is designed to virtualize enterprise networks and securely enable access to cloud and data center applications, while reducing remote office infrastructure requirements.

CloudGenix officials said the market for their products is $5 billion in remote branch office WAN infrastructure and operations.

+ MORE ON NETWORK WORLD:The software defined enterprise WAN is now a business imperative +

The CloudGenix platform is based on a business policy framework with cloud-based control, designed to automate the rollout of cloud-based applications to remote offices while maintaining regulatory and business practice compliance. SDEwan is intended to enable scale of enterprise WANs based on business intent rather than technology constraints, connecting users to applications rather than connecting locations only.

SDEwan virtualizes networks and assigns application-specific business and IT policies. As applications are delivered from public, private and hybrid clouds, SDEwan allows IT to enforce security, performance and compliance policies in a location-independent manner.

The CloudGenix product virtualizes a hybrid infrastructure of MPLS, best effort Internet and 4G/LTE networks. It also centralizes network functions such as firewalling, threat detection and data leakage prevention, while distributing enforcement of those security policies out to remote sites.

This is intended to reduce the amount of equipment and administration necessary at the branch office, ease management and optimize WAN utilization.

* Viptela notes the need for SDN in the WAN is to help reduce complexity associated with stitching together multiple transport networks, patching security vulnerabilities, and segmenting the network for lines of business and business partners. SDNs and virtual network overlays can also improve WAN performance for cloud and Internet applications, enable use of optimal technology for capacity and scale requirements, and help translate business logic into network and security policies.

Viptela's products for making WAN operations more efficient are vEdge Routers, vSmart SDN Controller and the vManage network management system for building Secure Extensible Network (SEN). The routers sit at the perimeter of a remote, branch, campus or data center site and provide secure data connectivity over any transport, the company says.

The SDN controller centrally manages routing, policy, security, segmentation, and authentication of new devices that join the overlay network. The vManage system enables centralized configuration and management of the Viptela SEN environment with a dashboard displaying the real-time health of the network.

Kerravala says Viptela is focusing on the implications of today's WAN architectures, where traffic patterns are becoming less predictable with the advent of mobile and cloud. Traffic is no longer following a well-defined pattern of backhaul to the data center from the branch, he notes.

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