NETWORKING

  • 09/09/2014
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Software-Defined WAN: A Primer

Enterprise WANs are costly and complex to manage. SD-WAN technology can help by automating the configuration of WAN edge routers.

Several companies have entered the software-defined WAN space. Not all of these companies do the exact same thing, so it's worth investigating each to determine how each company's niche maps to your organization's needs.

  • Cisco Intelligent WAN (IWAN) aims to allow customers to build a WAN fabric across whatever transport they happen to be using such as LTE, the Internet, and private MPLS. Then applications should be delivered with LAN-like performance across that WAN fabric. This lofty goal is achieved in part through a partnership with Akamai, which is adding global caching to the IWAN solution.

Figure 1:

  • CloudGenix is a startup still in early stages but will offer an SD-WAN product that supports dynamic, hybrid WAN, as well as centralization of services that often would normally be placed directly in the branch.
  • Glue Networks Gluware Orchestration Engine is an SD-WAN product integrated with Cisco-based WAN infrastructures. Gluware handles the WAN from beginning to end, including policy management, zero-touch provisioning of network hardware, and real-time management of the WAN infrastructure. For example, Gluware can leverage Cisco PfR, saving IT staff from having to configure and manage PfR manually.

Figure 2:

  • Netsocket is focused on WAN for managed service providers. Though this is somewhat different from the typical enterprise SD-WAN use case, Netsocket's architecture could be mapped to certain enterprise models. Netsocket provides a central controller and a small x86 box, which is a network switch, router, and security device that can also host an MSP's application. The idea is to ship the x86 device to a remote site; it will come online and automatically "phone home," having been preconfigured to do so. Once connected to the controller, it will receive policy and be able to route across a hybrid WAN infrastructure with the added benefit of delivering local services.
  • Viptela, a well-funded startup, recently emerged from stealth mode with its Secure Extensible Network platform. Viptela's SEN supports hybrid WAN (or "transport agnostic WAN" in Viptela parlance), highly scalable encryption featuring Viptela's own technology, service chaining, and network segmentation that extends beyond the data center. This is all accomplished through an overlay network managed by a centralized controller and implemented through Viptela's vEdge routers.

Another company to keep an eye on in the software-defined WAN space is Riverbed. Its technology acquisitions has vaulted it from being merely a WAN optimization company to a company that can make any remote location perform like a local one for network, storage, and other services. Though Riverbed hasn't made a specific SD-WAN announcement, the emerging SD-WAN market matches up well with its product set. As Riverbed makes its location-independent technologies more easily consumable through APIs and virtual containers, I suspect there will be some alliances formed.

Learn more about the software-defined WAN at Interop New York, where Greg Ferro will discuss "How the Software-Defined WAN Changes Everything for the Better." Register now for Interop, Sept. 29 to Oct. 3 in New York City.

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