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Prepping SD-WAN for the IoT Edge

Wednesday Nov 21st 2018 by Arthur Cole

The growth of the Internet of Things is going to place new demands on software-defined networks.

The SD-WAN is about to make a big push into enterprise edge networks, which itself is part of a larger strategy to support the Internet of Things (IoT) workloads that will come to define the digital economy over the next decade.

But not all SD-WAN solutions are created equal. Before the enterprise gets too deep into deployment, it might help to assess the various approaches to see which one fits best within the business model.

According to Frank Cittadino, CEO of QOS Networks, the fixed, physical edge built around MPLS was already on the way out once virtualized SaaS workloads started traversing wide area networks. The IoT, however, kicks that transition into high gear given the massive influx of data generated by wave after wave of connected devices. Not only does this place a burden on the overall carrying requirements of emerging networks, it vastly ups the complexity because each stream must be routed in conjunction with countless other streams. And this requires not just a two-way architecture from device to data center and back, but a multi-directional fabric as devices start to communicate with legions of micro data centers on the edge, as well as with other devices.

Choosing the “right” approach to the SD-WAN, then, is a critical decision for IT executives in the coming year. According to SDX Central’s Mike Vizard, Gartner’s first Magic Quadrant of WAN Edge Infrastructure identifies three leading options from VMware, Cisco and Silver Peak, each of which exhibits different strengths and weaknesses at the moment. VMware, for instance, has married the VeloCloud to its NSX virtual network software to devise a platform that is heavy on dynamic application performance and microsegmentation, but is light on secure web gateways and firewall capabilities. Meanwhile, Silver Peak offers real-time Internet path intelligence and integrated WAN optimization, but also lacks next-gen firewall software and cloud-resident gateways. For Cisco’s part, it has the advantage of a sizeable router installed base, which it plans to upgrade with new Viptela software, but the company is hampered by multiple code bases and frameworks that lack broad integration capabilities.

It would be a mistake for SD-WAN vendors to overlook security and access as a core components of the new edge, says eWeek’s Jeffrey Burt. Most organizations are already nervous about pushing critical workloads beyond the firewall, so any perceived limitations in these critical areas could create serious deployment headwinds. This is the main reason Cisco recently integrated a number of security features into its SD-WAN device portfolio, including application-aware firewalls, intrusion prevention and URL filtering. Meanwhile, Aruba Networks is out with the new 520 Series access points that support WPA3 and Enhanced Open standards.

Oracle is also shoring up its SD-WAN capabilities, having just announced plans to buy Talari Networks, developer of the Failsafe platform that enhances security, reliability and predictability of virtual wide area infrastructure. The system will likely augment Oracle’s Session Boarder Controller (SBC) solution that oversees both fixed and mobile traffic. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

While you can look at the SD-WAN as an extension of the software-defined networking that is taking hold within the data center, the IoT itself is still uncharted territory for the enterprise. At the moment, the best strategy for virtual edge networking is to lay out a solid foundation for throughput, reliability and security now, while preserving the flexibility for fine-tuning the architectures later when the vagaries of the workload are more fully understood.

Arthur Cole is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years’ experience covering enterprise IT, telecommunications and other high-tech industries.

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