IT organizations have long been challenged by the cost and complexity of managing enterprise WANs. These problems are only made worse with the continued growth of bandwidth requirements, adoption of real-time applications, and increasing dependency on high-performance networks. Fortunately, advancements made in software-defined networking offer some solutions.
Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) technology promises to reduce the cost and complexity of enterprise WANs by automating the ongoing configuration of WAN edge routers and running traffic over a hybrid of broadband, MPLS, and other WAN links. A centralized controller is used to set policies and prioritize traffic. The SD-WAN takes into account these policies and the availability of network bandwidth to route traffic. This helps ensure that application performance meets SLAs while optimizing low-cost broadband links and reducing the amount of traffic sent over costlier MPLS links.
IT organizations are optimistic about these capabilities. According to market research firm IHS, 45% of North American businesses plan to spend more on SD-WAN over the next two years. Enterprises have several technology providers to choose from. While the SD-WAN market is young, several startups are making inroads in the landscape, and legacy technology providers are paying attention. As part of our Top in Tech series, on the slides that follow we've selected providers and technology that are making a splash with SD-WAN.
Crystal Bedell is a freelance technology writer specializing in security, cloud computing and mobility. As the principal of Bedell Communications, she helps technology providers and IT media companies create engaging thought leadership content.
Cisco Intelligent WAN (IWAN) dynamically routes traffic based on application, endpoint, and network conditions to deliver the best quality experience. The SD-WAN solution consists of four "components." Using IPsec VPN technologies, branch-office traffic can be distributed over multiple transport options for transport independence. Intelligent path control means that applications are sent over the best performing paths based on policy and real-time path status. Application optimization is achieved via visibility with performance monitoring and acceleration and bandwidth optimization. Finally, IWAN enables secure connectivity.
CloudGenix's SDN-WAN technology, CloudGenix ION, can combine disparate networks, such as MPLS, LTE, and Internet links, into a centrally managed hybrid-WAN fabric. ION continuously monitors the real-time performance of transactional and unified communications applications and, using dynamic path selection, allocates WAN bandwidth based on application SLAs. Application sessions are load balanced across all paths that are within SLAs while preserving traffic symmetry across the WAN. The CloudGenix Controller, which is used to monitor, manage, and configure performance policies, is available on-premises or hosted in the cloud.
Glue Networks' SD-WAN product is integrated with Cisco-based WAN infrastructures, enabling IT organizations to take a phased approach to an SD-WAN migration. The cloud-based solution handles the WAN from beginning to end, including policy management, zero-touch provisioning of network hardware, and real-time management of the WAN infrastructure. The solution includes pre-built, best-practice SD-WAN architectures, as well as broad solution customization possibilities, enabling IT organizations to quickly and securely deploy new levels of network modeling and abstraction across the WAN.
Riverbed's WAN optimization product, SteelHead, was a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for WAN Optimization Controllers eight years in a row. Today, Riverbed SteelHead 9.0 has been updated to optimize, automate, and secure the delivery of applications over hybrid networks. To automate SLA enforcement, SteelHead groups applications based on type and business priority. A combination of optimization techniques, including QoS and path selection, are used to calculate the best path on which to send an application. In conjunction, SteelCentral AppResponse version 9.5 monitors and provides visibility into SaaS applications, enabling IT organizations to monitor the end user experience for cloud-based applications.
SilverPeak's Unity EdgeConnect creates a virtual network overlay by which connectivity decisions are made independent of carriers. IT organizations can migrate to a broadband WAN either site-by-site or via a hybrid WAN without having to replace existing routers and firewalls at branch offices. Dynamic Path Control steers traffic in real time over any broadband or MPLS link based on company-defined policies. Cloud Intelligence helps ensure that users have fast access to cloud applications by delivering real-time updates on the best performing path to reach SaaS applications.
Talari's THINKING WAN solution selects the best quality path through the network based on predetermined policies, real-time knowledge of network performance, and current bandwidth availability. Talari measures the packet loss, latency, jitter, and availability of each path across the WAN and to the cloud in each direction with real traffic. Unlike other SD-WAN solutions, Talari features selective packet duplication. Packets from low-bandwidth, latency-sensitive applications like VoIP can be duplicated across two or more links to ensure the highest possible application performance and quality. With Talari Aware, IT organizations can centrally configure, analyze, and monitor the WAN.
VeloCloud uses a cloud-centric operational model for its SD-WAN offering. The provider's virtualized services are delivered from the cloud to branch offices and mobile users. VeloCloud's customer-premises equipment, VeloCloud Edge, aggregates multiple broadband links at the branch office and sends the traffic to VeloCloud gateways. Using cloud-based orchestration, the service connects the branch office to any type of data center -- enterprise, cloud, or SaaS. IT organizations can configure a number of business rules, including application prioritization, QoS mechanism, resource allocations, link/path steering, and error correction.
Viptela's SD-WAN offering is the Viptela Secure Extensible Network solution, which consists of a controller, router(s), orchestrator, and a configuring and monitoring system. VEdge routers sit at the perimeter of a site and provide connectivity between sites. The vEdge routers build an overlay network over the WAN, and provide routing, packet forwarding, encryption, QoS, policy, management, and ACL functions. The vBond Orchestrator is software that runs on a vEdge router and facilitates the control-plane bring-up process, performs initial authentication, and orchestrates connectivity between the vSmart controllers and the vEdge routers. The vSmart controller establishes a secure DTLS connection to each vEdge router and runs an Overlay Management Protocol to share routes, security, and policy information.
SD-WAN Vendors Making A Splash
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