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SDN tools increase WAN efficiency

Jim Duffy | Dec. 2, 2014
Configuring, maintaining and changing WAN infrastructure can be a nightmare given the distributed nature of the beast and all the remote touch points, but emerging Software Defined Networking (SDN) tools promise to make these operations more efficient.

Configuring, maintaining and changing WAN infrastructure can be a nightmare given the distributed nature of the beast and all the remote touch points, but emerging Software Defined Networking (SDN) tools promise to make these operations more efficient.

Usually touted as a data center tool, SDN can be used to automate and manage WAN operations, says Zeus Kerravala, principal of ZK Research. WAN issues are hard to address because of the dispersed nature of the resources, he says. "There's no perfect way of making changes to the WAN," but "SDN brings automation and orchestration from a centralized location and allows you to react faster."

Zeus Kerravala, principal of ZK Research

More than data center nets, the WAN is a bigger headache for customers, especially those that are IT constrained, Kerravala says. And major IT trends such as SaaS, private clouds, BYOD, mobility and voice/data convergence are adding extra WAN stress, according to analyst Lee Doyle of Doyle Research. WAN links now require improved security, lower latency, higher reliability and support for any device in any location to accommodate these trends.

"The WAN or branch is ripe for disruption" through SDN, Doyle says. SDN vendors are "trying to simplify the mess we have with branch operations."

In fact, for two years running the members of the Open Network User Group (ONUG) have identified SDN WANs as the No.1 use case, according to Nick Lippis of Lippis Enterprises, a founding member of ONUG.

In fact, a number of start-ups are intent on using SDN to make WANs more efficient, including the likes of Glue Networks, CloudGenix and Viptela. Here's a look at their different approaches:

* Glue Networks is targeting Cisco's installed base of WAN routers with its SDN WAN offering, and in fact Cisco includes Glue products on its price list and will compensate its sales force for selling them. Glue says its addressable market is the $12 billion worth of 16 million Cisco WAN routers installed globally, which the company expects to reach 23 million in 2017.

Glue's Gluware orchestration software runs in the cloud and provides a cloud-based service for turning up remote sites and teleworkers worldwide. It is designed to lower the cost of private WAN networking by automating those operations and handling ongoing maintenance, monitoring, life-cycle management and feature extension.

The software automates the provisioning of voice, video, wireless, LAN networking, IP addressing, PKI security, firewalls, VLANs and ACLs, and allows users to configure a meshed, spoke-to-spoke, low latency infrastructure that is QoS-enabled, the company says.

Glue's products are essentially a software-defined dynamic multipoint VPN offered as a monthly software-as-a-service subscription. It includes a central policy-based controller, applications with "CCIE intelligence," and an API to configure the OS using the applications.

 

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