Software defined networking (SDN) is the last step toward creating the fully virtual data center. In the age of the cloud and Big Data, however, a single data center is no longer enough for most organizations.
What they need is a virtual, multisite data ecosystem that can be parsed into very finite instances or harnessed into massive computing environments. But to do that, the enterprise needs to start pushing SDN over the wide area network (WAN).
The need for the software defined WAN
The subject was front and center at the most recent gathering of the Open Network User Group (ONUG), where, according to IT Connection’s Mike Fratto, the general consensus was that the telecom service provider market has been too slow in the uptake of dynamic WAN connectivity. Therefore, the enterprise will need to step up to the plate itself, with a key application for the software defined WAN being the movement of bulk storage from site to site. Placing an abstraction layer on the WAN will go a long way toward fulfilling this goal. It will also optimize long-haul networks for continual workflows while reducing on-site hardware at remote sites and branch offices.
Emerging software defined WAN solutions
Market activity is already heating up around the software defined WAN. A startup called Viptela recently came out of stealth with promises of an entirely new WAN architecture that is both more agile and easier to manage. According to VP of Products Ramesh Prabagaran, the system integrates routing, security and network segmentation into a single software-based entity, providing an easy way to place WAN abstraction atop MPLS, broadband Internet, and other wide area architectures. Viptela spent two years developing the Secure Extensible Network (SEN) using a mix of virtual edge routers, controller appliances and a network management and automation stack.
At the same time, newcomer CloudGenix has built its Software Defined Enterprise WAN (SDEwan) solution around centralized policy and management and abstraction of low-level network functions such as firewall maintenance and threat protection. The system features a business policy abstraction layer that connects users and applications, a virtual network component that removes many traditional VPN, ACL and QoS management tasks, and a network functions projection that eliminates the point-to-point provisioning process of a standard WAN. The company says it can cut remote site infrastructure fivefold.
Established networking companies are turning their attention to the WAN as well. Ciena and Brocade, for example, have teamed up on a new dynamic cloud architecture designed to ease the movement of data and resources between data centers. The package includes the Ciena V-WAN transport platform and Brocade’s Application Resource Broker. Together, they enable advanced services like capacity-on-demand, cloud bursting, disaster recovery and the like. Ultimately, the goal is to foster the broad implementation of cloud computing through dynamic resource provisioning across disparate sites, essentially turning the WAN into a long-haul LAN.
This concept of the cloud as the new data center is not new, but it is only recently that the industry has come to grips with what it is truly needed to make it happen. Software defined networking is a crucial component, but only if it can be extended across the data center, the cloud and all points in between.
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