SD-WAN Turns the Traditional Network and Its Legacy “Rules” on Its Head

This scenario should sound familiar to you: You’ve been running IT organizations for what seems like forever and while you work tirelessly to make sure the network is working right, that everyone can access the network at all times, and that network traffic goes where it needs to when it needs to be there, the fact that you can’t control every nuance can be frustrating and impeding to your service level objectives. There’s a certain lack of control when it comes to managing WAN links that are responsible for connecting your workforce to mission critical cloud applications and data, and you wish that more of that control was in your own hands.

Historically, management of WAN circuits has been out of the hands of enterprise IT managers, often times putting you at the mercy of the service providers that ultimately control it and have configuration access to the devices providing the handoff. This can range anywhere from the user interface (UI) to CLI’s and in some cases, APIs. Do you have to process requests for changes, access, fixes, etc. through a support channel where you end up crossing your fingers that you’re at the top of their queue so that you can satisfy the needs of your network users?

But we’re entering a new era and this no longer has to be the standard by which we all operate. In fact, new technologies and capabilities are creating a new status quo, one in which the network power returns to where it should be – with the IT staff that is deep in it every day and to whom employees turn when there is a problem.

The advent of software defined networking (SDN) has spurred this much needed transition. Enterprise customers have long been looking at ways that open up the access to the network, allowing for hands-on configuration of components. SDN turns the traditional network architecture on its head, creating a physical separation of the network control plane from the forwarding plane and enables the flexibility that the enterprise has long been seeking by allowing for a global view of the network, centralized management, redundancy and fault tolerance, and hardware independence, amongst other benefits.

To take this a step further, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), extends the key principles of SDN to the WAN network, simplifying the deployment and management of the entire network. Not only does it provide Dynamic Multipath Optimization (DMPO) to optimize the delivery of traffic across any transport channel, but it further delivers the capabilities that enterprise IT managers desire, including a level of network intelligence that wasn’t previously available. SD-WAN makes network decisions using both centralized control policies that are pre-established by IT personnel and takes into account knowledge of local conditions throughout the distributed network that includes local service quality measurements and the availability of bandwidth on various links. IT managers not only have more control, but the technology is also much more intelligent, further simplifying management.

When SD-WAN first emerged, it carried the promise of rapid deployment and ease of use, and after several years in-market, it has delivered. It achieves this through the use of ReST API’s to program the various SD-WAN components in such a way that flows can be steered through the network for the ultimate end-user experience. In an SD-WAN deployment, an SD-WAN controller acts as an endpoint for these API’s and enterprise IT users have been able to interact directly with it using a few options: the APIs, software development kit (SDK), or via a web portal.

The next logical step in the evolution of SD-WAN is to provide a vendor abstracted API that allows enterprise administrators, through a single call, to provision an SD-WAN deployment across multiple vendors and enable a network service without the need to translate this into the configuration styles of the underlying vendors.

While SD-WAN has been in-market for several years and has been deployed across enterprises both big and small, it has yet to become a standardized industry. With as many as 50 companies claiming to be competing in the space and offering something SD-WAN-like, without standards, the technology and its usage can vary widely from vendor to vendor. This reduces the ability for collaboration, for protection of the customer, for a checks and balance by a broader governing body.

ONUG is seeking to change this stance by introducing standardization to the SD-WAN industry in an effort to drive the evolution and goals of this disruptive technology. With its events and initiatives, it brings together the full IT community to allow IT business leaders to learn from their peers and open up the dialogue between the vendor and user communities. In these forums, industry stakeholders can make informed open infrastructure deployment decisions, driving the entire industry forward.

Author's Bio

Tim Van Herck