NETWORKING

  • 02/13/2015
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The Rise Of The Cloud WAN

The trend of pushing WAN functionality into the cloud -- software-defined WAN -- is gaining steam as enterprises look to reduce WAN complexity and lower costs.

Cloud technology is pushing WAN technology toward the consumer paradigm, as a raft of new startups make it easier to provision and deploy WAN services in the cloud with a software-only model. The WAN functionality moving into the cloud includes business-class Internet, security, WAN optimization, and application policy control.

This cloud WAN movement, or as some call it software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), is designed to make WAN services easier to consume and manage. It's part of two megatrends in networking, including software-defined networking (SDN) and the consumerization of enterprise technology. This market for enterprise WAN services could be upwards of $7.5 billion by 2020, according to projections by my research firm, the Rayno Report.

Making WAN easier

After spending six months researching this space, I found two common themes: IT experts say that private-line WAN connections and protocols such as MPLS are too expensive, and enterprise managers don't really want to deal with managing proprietary hardware to manage the WAN.

This is where cloud WAN steps in. The idea is to push as much of the functionality into the cloud, including the networking box or branch-office router. Many of the newer cloud services are software only or offered as a Network as a Service (NaaS). There's also a big move toward customer self-provisioning on the Web, to enable a business --  say a branch office -- to set up a secure, optimized WAN connection in the cloud in minutes.

With cloud WAN or SD-WAN, you can say goodbye to the  land of proprietary lock-in and eccentric CLIs. The technology aims to make securing your WAN technology as easy as ordering up a plane ticket from Expedia.

This trend in networking is following the move in enterprise applications. If you think about what cloud applications have done for enterprise technology, they've made them a lot easier
to consume. The first popular cloud applications, such as Salesforce and Google Apps,
reduced the friction to consume and install the software. In the old enterprise paradigm, an IT manager had to install a server and a network to support the application, then install and manage the application itself. Now it's in the cloud, available for anybody to buy at the click of the button.

This reflects what's happened in the retail world. Over time, home-based broadband services have become easier to provision and more automated. It's rare that you need a truck roll to install broadband or cable anymore -- often the home is prewired and the service provider can send you a box in the mail, or have you buy an industry standard hardware, and provision and deploy the service via the Web.

This is exactly what both enterprise IT managers -- and  service providers -- want: Fewer truck rolls, faster provisioning, and easier management. 

Cloud WAN players

More than $360 million in venture capital has gone into the cloud WAN space, creating a wave of startups that will also push the incumbents to innovate in the WAN. Startups emerging in this area include Aryaka, CloudGenix (which still is in stealth mode), Pertino, and VeloCloud. Others playing in this market include Silver Peak and Talari.

Aryaka, which has raised more than $80 million in VC funding, is building a global network of POPs for a NaaS service. Think of it as Akamai for enterprise networks. The local POPs can prioritize mission-critical SaaS apps to accelerate performance. But Aryaka's network delivers a wide range of services including compression, Quality of Service (Qos), IPSec security, and link redundancy.

Pertino and VeloCloud are focused on the branch-office connectivity challenge. For example, say a global energy company needs to connect hundreds or thousands of offices and wants to easily provision the services without reconfiguring hardware and truck rolls. Private networks are no longer needed. By supplying virtual orchestration, routing software, and VPN in the cloud, you can now secure the Internet for business-quality WAN connectivity.

Don't expect the incumbents to give up this space to startups. Cisco is migrating WAN functionality to the cloud, and WAN optimization leader Riverbed Technology is partnering with Akamai to put enterprise SaaS acceleration in the cloud.

Expect all sorts of specialized appliance vendors -- such as F5 Networks in the application delivery controller (ADC) space or Fortinet in the security space -- to reconfigure their products as virtualized services for the cloud. This trend was illustrated by the recent partnership between Fortinet  and NTT Communications.

The key for both customers and service providers with cloud WAN is better ROI: Less management headaches, less time spent configuring hardware devices, lower hardware costs, and increased business productivity.

The Rayno Report has just released a premium report, the Future of Cloud WAN, which details the emergence of a $7.5B software-defined WAN market that puts enterprise connectivity services in the cloud. The 20-page report is available on the Rayno Report website.


Comments

SD-WAN

Thanks for this overview Scott. Do you have any guidance for organizations interested in this technology on what to look for when they're evaluating vendors? 

Re: SD-WAN

Ethan Banks just posted a list of questions about SD-WAN technology that are good to keep in mind when evaluating products http://ethancbanks.com/2015/02/13/questions-im-asking-myself-about-sd-wa...

Re: SD-WAN

"Ethan Banks just posted a list of questions about SD-WAN technology that are good to keep in mind when evaluating products ethancbanks.com/2015/02/13/questions-im-asking-myself-about-sd-wan-solutions/. "

Marcia, thanks for sharing the link. It's very useful.

Re: SD-WAN

Ethen shares important aspect of sdW i.e. Configuring a hybrid WAN by hand is a challenge. Routing protocols, unless influenced by an outside source, choose a single best path to get between two sites and stick with it.

Re: SD-WAN

"Ethen shares important aspect of sdW i.e. Configuring a hybrid WAN by hand is a challenge. Routing protocols, unless influenced by an outside source, choose a single best path to get between two sites and stick with it."

Aditshar, that's again a case to case adhoc arrangement.

WAN security

Some of the SD-WAN vendors are emphasizing security. For example, Viptela lets customers set up encrypted tunnels between its vEdge appliances. And earlier this week, VeloCloud Networks announced interoperability with cloud security suppliers Zscaler and Websense.

 

Re: WAN security

I feel that the SD-WAN market has two distinct consumers. One that is looking to outsource network reach and optimization to a provider and the second, that is looking to create a secure network to enable old services that cost less and the creation of new services.

All, so that the business can focus on their core competency, for instance, the firm looking to outsource their network reach might be an ecommerce store that does not want their network to be inefficient during a sales event -- this firm, wants to focus on retail. And the second segment, that wants security might be an automotive firm that sees the benefits of a connected car but, does not want to deal with security on every level -- this firm, wants to focus on building great cars.

Re: WAN security

"All, so that the business can focus on their core competency, for instance, the firm looking to outsource their network reach might be an ecommerce store that does not want their network to be inefficient during a sales event -- this firm, wants to focus on retail. And the second segment, that wants security might be an automotive firm that sees the benefits of a connected car but, does not want to deal with security on every level -- this firm, wants to focus on building great cars."

Brain, that's true. Let the expertise take care about their own domains. Its not easy for a company to build expertise in all domains or necessary things to run their business. Say for an example; ecommerce companies cannot look in to networking, portal, marketing etc at a time. So it's better to outsource their non competency field to other experts, 

Re: WAN security

Mynet, well said and I completely agree. The only downside that this creates is that, businesses need to have a fundamental understanding of the process that is being outsourced and the ability to measure it. For instance, many businesses use Google to advertise their business, in a way, these businesses are basically outsourcing their marketing efforts to Google and Google does it well because it has the scale and reach but, the business still need an accountant that is measuring and evaluating the efficiency of the capital that is being spent.

Re: WAN security

"well said and I completely agree. The only downside that this creates is that, businesses need to have a fundamental understanding of the process that is being outsourced and the ability to measure it. For instance, many businesses use Google to advertise their business, in a way, these businesses are basically outsourcing their marketing efforts to Google and Google does it well because it has the scale and reach but, the business still need an accountant that is measuring and evaluating the efficiency of the capital that is being spent."

Brian, Google can because they are undisputed kings in internet world. Everyone cannot approach Google, I mean both the competitors on same platform. 

Re: The Rise Of The Cloud WAN

Thanks for the overview, Scott. As you say, this sounds more like the convergence of a number of recent trends and technologies than one specific technology. It looks like a combination of services, applications, dedicated support, and in some cases, specialized hardware that come together to give the business a high-quality, easy-to-use WAN experience. That last bit stood out to me, too; A couple of the Vendors you highlighted mentioned their hardware offerings. I suppose that's where the dedicated support comes in. Althought SD-WAN focuses on eliminating hardware, You're also trusting your SD-WAN vendor to make solid hardware. to make good on their promises of interoperability, and back you up if something goes wrong, so you still get that great ROI.

To that end, I wonder if people have any most or least favorites, like Marcia mentioned. After a while, all the Vendors sort of seem to blend together. A quick glance at the websites of the vendors you listed reveals a few subtle differences in what they're aiming to provide, but also many similarities. Without wishing anyone any ill will, I'm of the mind that a good horror story goes along way towards putting things in perspective. If someone had a tale of their pain points switching over to SD-WAN, that would let us know not only what to look for, but what not to look for. Different size businesses have different needs here, I would think, and I wonder if some find they don't get quite as much value out of SD-WAN as maybe they were expecting.

Software Defined WAN

"The trend of pushing WAN functionality into the cloud -- software-defined WAN -- is gaining steam as enterprises look to reduce WAN complexity and lower costs."

Scott, now everything is coming into software defined way. Software defined Networks, storages etc are common in IT industry and hope from this also we can derive more benefits.

Re: Software Defined WAN

As long as software enables businesses to reach a scale that was previously impossible to reach, because of some constraint for example, expansion into new markets, resulting in a massive amount of increase in overheads, etc., software will continue to be a driving force. 

Re: Software Defined WAN

"As long as software enables businesses to reach a scale that was previously impossible to reach, because of some constraint for example, expansion into new markets, resulting in a massive amount of increase in overheads, etc., software will continue to be a driving force. "

Brian, so you meant the best way is "defined in terms of software"? in one aspect it can reduce the overheads of adding too many components.

Re: Software Defined WAN

Mynet, yes, the process of creating a software layer does seems to be increasing the efficiency of many processes. If we look at the global market, as more inventories come online, it enables businesses to expand their scale and build greater specialization in a niche market. From the inside it might seem that the business is spreading itself into different areas but, from the outside and keeping in mind the macro scale, it's specialization in unique niches. Amazon is a good example that falls into this category. The same process can be applied to networking.

Re: Software Defined WAN

"yes, the process of creating a software layer does seems to be increasing the efficiency of many processes. If we look at the global market, as more inventories come online, it enables businesses to expand their scale and build greater specialization in a niche market. From the inside it might seem that the business is spreading itself into different areas but, from the outside and keeping in mind the macro scale, it's specialization in unique niches. Amazon is a good example that falls into this category. The same process can be applied to networking."

Brian, many times I have seen this additional layer also spoils the entire system. I have some bad experience with mission critical application, for better utilization and multithreading an additional layer of software scheduling added and finally everything went wrong. Yes it's like both sides of a coin and whichever weights more can sustain. 

SD-WAN != Cloud

"The trend of pushing WAN functionality into the cloud -- software-defined WAN -- is gaining steam as enterprises look to reduce WAN complexity and lower costs."

Maybe this depends on your definition of cloud. SD-WAN can be 100% on-prem, depending on your solution. As I see it, SD-WAN exists to improve your WAN performance over potentially lossy and jittery circuits, on an automatic basis. The cloud part may be a "nice to have" feature for some solutions, or a central part of the offering for other solutions. Maybe it's cloud-based configuration (à la Meraki), or maybe it's cloud-based Internet access too (VeloCloud). Either way, the two are not intrinsically condependent, in my opinion.

 

Re: SD-WAN != Cloud

Welcome back @jgherbert! We've missed you. Thanks for chiming in here -- you make an important distinction. Sometimes with these emerging technologies definitions can get fuzzy.

Re: SD-WAN != Cloud

Thanks, Marcia! 

I think with all of this, the terms are a little bit fuzzy, which is confusing for all of us. As a consumer, it's a real mess to figure out what each vendor means by certain words (well, acronyms).

ROI

"The key for both customers and service providers with cloud WAN is better ROI: Less management headaches, less time spent configuring hardware devices, lower hardware costs, and increased business productivity"

This, this, and more this. I was introduced to the VeloCloud and CloudGenix solutions at Networking Field Day 9 a couple of weeks ago, and the two big things that hit me were:

  • Convenience (the idea of plug and play remote site deployments)
  • Improved WAN performance - making the most of what you have, dynamically reacting to performance issues, and in general meaning you get more out of the WAN you paid for. The ROI on this, coupled with a centralized management solution sounds like there could be a very strong case for it. In particular, intelligent load balancing with Hybrid solutions (e.g. MPLS plus Internet) mean a much better ROI for your WAN circuits.

This is an area that in some ways disguises the "SD" part of things; it's just a neat solution to a problem and you don't need to worry about how it does it; it just does it.

 

Find a provider that has an NNI with your ISP

I think you are always going to have a hybrid situation when it comes to the enterprise, which means MPLS networks aren't going anywhere for the time being.  That being said, I think it's important for IT departments to continue to research which MPLS or Internet service providers are directly connected to their cloud provider, behind the scenes, otherwise known as a Network to Network Interface (NNI) Agreement.  By partnering with a cloud provider that is connected to your ISP, you get a direct, high performance connection to your cloud provider.  To read more about this, go to our website by doing an Internet search for "Aerocom Inc" then search our site for "how do I migrate to the cloud."