SD-WAN Multi-Domain Problem

SD-WAN 2.0 is Inherently a Multi-Domain Solution

  • SD-WAN is driving a multi-domain, multi-controller environment
  • Multi-Cloud is the reality for most enterprises, including the adoption of SaaS-based enterprise software platforms
  • Treating the network as a separate ‘silo’ will not harvest the full benefits of an automation strategy

Recent innovation in the networking domain is due in part to a market shift from “speeds and feeds,” to one focused on innovative services and a programmable network.  As the demand for internet access spikes and cloud applications increase, SD-WAN has evolved and enabled the acceleration for more innovative services. In an effort to extend SD-WAN into a multi-cloud reality, SD-WAN 2.0 enhances security and analytics while connecting innovation at the edge with application and cloud concepts.  While we have seen tremendous innovation in the cloud ecosystems, other domains are adopting similar concepts to create software-centric, programmable networks.

The Origin of SD-WAN

We have watched the public cloud explode and create platforms that have unlocked innovation in the application domain.  SD-WAN was originally touted as a way to leverage both private (MPLS) and public (internet) networks to route traffic to the most appropriate network.  Given these applications and networks now span clouds, data centers, WANs, LANs, and edge, we should view the automation of networks as a Multi-Domain problem.  Each domain will have unique challenges which should be automated locally while providing an end-to-end capability to align with the target network reality.

Today’s Multi-Domain Network Segments

Applications and services are becoming more distributed and require connectivity and policy enforcement across a diversity of domains represented by wireless, LAN, WAN, data center, network applications, and cloud.  Whether it is zero-trust security, intelligent network automation, or any modern networking strategy; management of these network concepts require us to re-think how we have traditionally managed networks.

Each of these network segments have a domain strategy which has evolved to solve domain specific problems.  Examples of these include YANG based modeling for Layer2/3 networks and TOSCA for cloud applications.  Physical networks continue to be dominated by CLI, while cloud applications are moving to REST API concepts.  The introduction of controllers and orchestration allows a network automation strategy based on the manipulation of software platforms rather than integrating with each instance that exists in the physical or cloud network.  Enterprise networks today consist of a combination of all of these domains.

Connecting the Multi-Domain Silos with Network Automation

SD-WAN 2.0 and multi-cloud solutions must include a multi-domain strategy to provide coordinated service creation as well as basic operations and configuration management capabilities.  Traditional network management concepts are relegated to siloed strategies with organizational and technical solutions for each domain.  Given modern services are distributed across a complex networking environment, network automation strategies need to focus on integrating these multiple domains under a comprehensive, end-to-end network automation platform.

Historical silos that existed based on manufacturer or network segments are being replaced by domain controllers and solutions.  While a generous step forward, we need to resist allowing each domain to verticalize and retract to similar, previous strategies which has limited our velocity and innovation over the last 20 years.  As users and applications become more ubiquitous, we need an end-to-end strategy that focuses on platforms and connecting all of the components into a programmable fabric, focused on the rate of change rather than outage aversion which dominates strategies today.

Our partners in the cloud are further down this journey and focus on platforms to solve similar problems and view layers of abstraction critical to simplifying a complex problem.  Ongoing efforts to verticalize individual network domains will only complicate our attempts to solve these problems and collectively we should focus on the adoption of more cloud concepts rather than unique, bespoke solutions for networking.  The programmable concepts of networks at both the device and orchestration layer have unlocked innovation of the management plane of the network.  SD-WAN 2.0 and multi-cloud management highlights the need to adopt these constructs and is a great use case to drive network automation platforms and their role in providing a programmable network.

Author's Bio

Chris Wade

CTO & Co-Founder, Itential