ONUG Working Groups: Elastic Infrastructure SD-WAN Working Group

ONUG Working Groups serve the vital function of addressing top challenges in tech. The six groups within the ONUG community are a vehicle for generating industry change. A recent webinar highlighted four of the Working Groups, describing their objectives, priorities, and future plans. This is a summary of the Elastic Infrastructure SD-WAN Working Group. Presenting their team’s progress was Steve Wood of Cisco, Regis Rogers of Capital Kingdom, Sal Rannazzasi of Global Network Architect, Nuno Ferreira of Volterra, and Ted Turner of Kentik. Watch the entire webinar, and follow along as we highlight each Working Group’s progress. 

Why Important?

Rogers launched the discussion by describing the evolution of elastic infrastructure. “We’re coming up on a very important inflection point, going from a collection of orchestrated pipes to fabric connecting, scalable software services. It’s a fundamentally different shift.” Rogers’ graphic showed a convergence between network, security, and application services while emphasizing that the community needs the simplicity of usage and integration. 

Rogers also discussed how important it is for the vendor community to provide a programmable way to bring services to the edge, whether it’s the cloud or the CO-LO edge. “Over the last five years, we’ve begged the vendor community for this. They are finally coming around, but there’s still a huge opportunity to improve.” The Working Group is focused on this evolution and how vendors must adapt to meet the needs of all industries. 

Wood agreed and added that the biggest change for SD-WAN is going to be in the consumption model. What services do we place in the network? Networks must become more API driven, with the controller becoming the integrated service manager for the enterprise. That includes controlling SD-WAN, underlays, as well as managing security through SaaS. Enterprises must be able to mix and match to meet their needs. 

Co-Location’s Fit into Elastic Infrastructure

Rannazzasi joined the panel to summarize the big shift to the edge, saying “The bottom line is that we have to become more elastic.” Illustrating the strength of ONUG’s Working Groups, he used his own experience as a case study. “Every day we’re seeing mergers, acquisitions, campuses closing, campuses opening, new sites being set up, etc. We can’t keep up.” These dynamics, along with COVID-19, have forced his company to ask, “Do we really need all these campuses and wired locations?” It’s critical to figure it out because “business suffers when we can’t keep up.” Rannazzasi outlined the main changes that are taking place in traditional WAN.

  • Regional hubs are moving to Co-location.
  • Remote sites will become more virtualized.
  • Bright box/white box services will run VNFs.
  • Campuses will be wireless with minimal local infrastructure.
  • These changes offer a flexible workspace.
  • The change will open the way for the ZTP instance branch offices.

“Latency is the new currency,” said Rannazzasi. Taking all external connectivity and moving to a CO-LO will help reduce latency. Rannazzasi predicts that most services will move to the CO-LO, enabling companies to build out an entire infrastructure without buying hardware, changing from a capital model to an operational model.

“However, the network must be completely ubiquitous.” Drawing from experience just this morning, Rannazzasi related that a user needed to put a 10 -gig research guide on his desktop. To meet business needs, the network must be API driven. The user should be able to plug in and have an API that automatically gives him the bandwidth he needs. 

Rannazzasi outlined services that are moving to CO-LO:

  • All external connectivity
  • Exchange point to SaaS
  • SD-WAN head-ends
  • Remote access
  • Network becomes ubiquitous
  • Instant access to VNF’s
  • On-demand virtual network

Wood agreed, adding that making a more cloud-like consumption model is important. The infrastructure is already there. “You’re just buying an access point and creating a fabric for yourself over a CO-LO,” he explained. “You’re just setting up services. That’s where elastic infrastructure is heading.” 

New Challenges Created

Ferreira first added his view of the evolution of elastic infrastructure. “Location should not matter anymore. Infrastructure needs to adapt. Most companies now have a plan to move all assets to the cloud within five years, transitioning to a SaaS consumption model and reducing on-prem assets. That shift presents new challenges that he summed up here. 

  • Connectivity policies, VPNs, and Load Balancing Topologies become complex. 
  • Dynamic workloads and scaling make IP addressing an unreliable mechanism for identity. 
  • Identity and key management are challenging because every cloud provider has its own solution. 
  • Verifiable identity at scale is difficult. 
  • Network micro-segmentation is not useful. There is a need for micro-segmentation within the API itself. 

Next, Ferreira outlined three ways to address these challenges. 

  • Manage PKI identities for Users and Apps (legacy or modern) is key. 
  • Access Proxy with identity-based authorization.
  • Zero-trust application security with authentication, authorization, and service micro-segmentation.

Telemetry/Observable Needs

Turner summed up key needs the group will focus on as they move forward.

  • First, you can be sure problems will occur. That is reality. To work through, we must 1) identify the problem; 2) identify an alternative safe landing for customers; 3) redirect traffic according to the state of data, not performance; and 4) ensure customers are not redirected to an alternate location that has no data. 
  • Next, he addressed remediation. 1) know what the good states are; 2) validate that the traffic flows are in a known good state; and 3) validate that the customer data is present. 
  • AI and vendor sharing will help enhance the customer experience. Cisco and Microsoft are doing this, but Turner emphasized the importance of finding ways to further share the data of a shared customer. 
  • The AIOps Working Group is focusing on this issue by asking, “what is reasonable for anonymized use of collected data?”

Get Involved

This Working Group, as well as others, are looking for IT executives, network operators, and those in the vendor community to help shape the future. Contribute your use cases. Demonstrate your innovation, and share your digitization journey. For more information about ONUG Working Groups, click hereContact us to learn more about the ONUG community.

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