Software Defined Networking is at the center of many discussions and debates regarding networking, and right fully so. It means many different things to many different people, and there is a lot of confusion and discrepancy in the term. You can ask 10 different people what SDN means, and you will get 10 different answers. If you ask me, SDN is today what cloud was five years ago. I won’t attempt to define what exactly SDN means, but what I will say is that like cloud, the value of SDN will clarify itself over time with powerful use cases and meaningful applications. Case in point, at the Spring 2014 Open Networking User Group (ONUG) meeting in New York City, the ONUG board of directors proposed nine different use cases that were most likely to be in an RFI/RFQ in the next 12 months. From these use cases, the IT business leader community at ONUG chose Software Defined WAN as the most critical use case in open networking today.
While the idea of SDN in general is exciting and powerful, most companies are in the planning stages of their SDN and automation vision. Most believe it will take at least two to three years to architect and realize the benefits of automation across the enterprise. What’s driving SDN is the promise of the following benefits:
- Management: Manual -> Automated Networks
- Configuration: Box Centric -> Network Wide
- Speed/Agility: Weeks/months -> Minutes
- Interoperable: Closed system -> Open System
Currently, there are very few, if any, companies who have completed their SDN strategy. Partially because it’s quite complex with many permutations, and partially because it’s so important to get it right. While planning for SDN and automation in the enterprise, there are two key things to consider:
- SDN applications must add value to the existing network today
- SDN applications must be able to integrate into the customer’s vision for SDN and automation.
There will be a transition between beginning and end state, but any SDN tool being considered must show value on the network as it is currently deployed and allow for integration with future architectures and platforms. If these considerations can be met, there is a clear reason to begin deployment today. Companies desire a mature solution in global production that enables value through SD WAN, meeting all of the benefits above, not just the promise of those benefits. Glue Networks can provide these benefits.
But, why do you care about the Software Defined WAN?
It makes perfect sense that the WAN use case was number one at ONUG, because the WAN is ripe for disruption. Cisco was founded in 1984 with the introduction of the router, and with that came the Wide Area Network (WAN). Traditionally, the WAN was built line by line, box by box, and was relatively straightforward to configure. However, much has changed over the last 30 years. Many great features and capabilities have been added to IOS introducing with the side effect of introducing complexity to configurations. And although complexity has increased, so have the expectations of the business. And for the most part, our administration of the WAN has not changed with the times. We need faster speed to deployment, we need more agility in terms of feature sets we deploy, and we need to simplify the complexity of advanced features. Put simply, we need a new and improved way to manage and deploy the WAN. That’s why when MWH Global wanted to improve their set up and tear down of project driven field offices, they selected Glue Networks as the Software Defined WAN vendor of choice.
Welcome to the Software Defined WAN and Glue Networks
MWH Global is a leader in wet infrastructure and water engineering. They provide technical engineering, construction services and consulting solutions to protect, enhance, store and distribute water. With operations in 180 offices and 35 countries, they have a truly global reach.
Due to the dynamic nature of their customer projects, MWH is required to provide technology services to mobile project offices in remote areas quickly, easily and cost effectively, often with unreliable or unavailable internet connectivity. The three technical hurdles MWH faces as a result of these locations are 1) provisioning project office routers quickly and easily, 2) cost effectively managing and modifying technical features and services and 3) providing reliable internet connectivity in a timely fashion at a reasonable cost.
Gluware, by Glue Networks, is a cloud based orchestration and automation platform for WANs. With Gluware, MWH is able to automate the provisioning of their project office routers through zero touch deployment, eliminating the need for skilled IT installation personnel in remote locations. In addition, Gluware simplifies lifecycle management for these locations, enabling agility and speed for new services, no matter the complexity. MWH Global is able to quickly and easily provision and manage remote locations with existing internet connectivity, without the costly alternative of on-site skilled IT workers. But how exactly does Glue Networks do this?
Let’s take a closer look at how Gluware adds value to your WAN.
- Leverage existing infrastructure with future proofing — As stated earlier, it’s important to have a tool that will work with your existing infrastructure. Gluware works with Cisco ISRs, ASR 1000 and CSRs today with no need to buy new devices or add new gear to automate or simplify management. In addition to leveraging your existing infrastructure, we enable advanced feature sets that you may not have already deployed due to complexity or time constraints. In addition, Gluware supports northbound and southbound APIs to integrate with other applications. One great example of this is Cisco APIC EM. Companies can feel confident adopting Gluware today with assurance that they can integrate into future applications and platforms that are similarly open.
- Simplify Configuration – Not only does Gluware work with your existing infrastructure, but we also simplify Cisco advanced features. IOS is chockablock of advanced features like PfR, DMVPN and QoS, but they can be complex to manage. In order to quickly and easily enable these features, Gluware simplifies deployment and management through template based configuration. Now, rather than needing an IOS expert to administer the WAN, you can simply set policy through Gluware and offload the provisioning and configuration to the Gluware Intelligent Orchestration Engine.
- Ensure Consistency – Traditionally, each device on the WAN was managed line by line and box by box. Multiply those devices by tens, hundreds or thousands and add the increasing complexity of advanced IOS features, and WAN configurations explodes into a morass of unwieldy code. Gluware enables consistency and assurance across the enterprise through template-based configuration and policy changes which can be applied to a subset or all of your devices ensuring consistency.
- Agility with Assurance – Gluware ensures the correct configuration and features are applied to each WAN device. Instead of the typical load and pray approach used to configure routers today, Gluware has an intelligent dialogue with each device when provisioning or making changes to that device. If any issues are encountered, this enables Gluware to identify exactly where the issue occurs. And perhaps more importantly, this intelligent dialogue enables the Gluware orchestration engine to make subtle or broad changes to advanced configurations without interruption to the device, eliminating reloads or downtime.
- Speed Deployment – Typically, routers are staged, configured, shipped to remote sites, provisioned by WAN/IOS experts and troubleshot if problems arise. With Gluware, a default Cisco configuration is shipped out to remote sites, and the policies for that device and full IOS configuration are delivered by the Gluware orchestration engine with nothing more than power and WAN connectivity. This is accomplished through a USB key boot on the Cisco device or a Java application enabled from a simple click of a link in email. This allows companies to provision routers and deliver complex services in a timely fashion through transport independent connectivity (think broadband, 3G/4G, etc).
Every company has their own requirements and needs for SDN and automation. There is no one tool or application that will solve all challenges for all companies, and there are many applications promising value and the potential to unlock powerful features with ease. However, Glue Networks is delivering on the promise of simplifying deployment, delivery and management of advanced features on the WAN today, and is worth a look.
Nate Chessin is the Director of Business Development for Glue Networks. Before Glue, Nate was a 14-year veteran of Cisco Systems, working in various engineering and senior management roles. He is also a 10+ year CCIE #12034.