SDN Journal Authors: John Walsh, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Sven Olav Lund, Simon Hill

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Blog Post

Network-Aware Orchestration: The Next Level of SD-WAN By @SDietric | @CloudExpo #Cloud

Enterprises need to be aware that deep cultural changes are needed

Enterprise networks have become complex. They were designed and deployed to meet a specific set of business requirements at a specific point in time. Configuration modifications were rare, and manual or semi-automated processes together with strict change control procedures were enough to maintain reliability and consistent service levels across the organization.

Business needs have shifted dramatically. The adoption of cloud services, business application-focused requirements and evolving security policies require IT organizations to continuously deploy configuration changes. The common approach of either manually performing changes necessary or simply replacing the complete device configuration, rebooting and hoping it will function, creates unacceptable risks and potential network interruptions. Therefore, enterprises are looking for better ways to automate the management of their networks through leveraging existing capabilities to optimize performance and reducing operational risk through standardization and best-practice architectures.

Software-Defined Networking
Software-defined networking (SDN) promises just that: to provide network configuration management via software to make a network more agile and adaptable. With SDN, all network configurations are stored and managed centrally, and devices can be reprogrammed as needed on the fly, simplifying hardware infrastructure and administrative overhead. This allows enterprises to free up network expertise from mundane tasks and to refocus on business-critical optimization tasks and enables smaller organizations without deep networking engineering expertise to implement much more sophisticated network architectures.

Extending SDN from Data Centers to the WAN
Software-defined networking started in data centers and proved the benefits of developing software to automate network management. In addition, network function virtualization replaces many physical network devices by their virtual counterparts running on commodity hardware. This increases the capabilities to custom program, scale and chain network services to anticipated needs, especially for complex services such as load balancing, firewalling, intrusion detection and WAN acceleration.

While managing this complexity for data center, where technology is chosen by the enterprise, was already difficult, WAN connectivity provides an additional layer of complexity. Network services are bought from service providers who use their own architectures and technologies that may vary by location. Many businesses have also started to rollout VPN solutions over Internet broadband as cost-effective replacements for private MPLS lines for almost all business applications, save for those that are the most sensitive and business-critical.

Through SD-WAN, it is now possible to create a transparent logical enterprise IP network across service providers' technologies, architectures and service offering, and add advanced network features such as application-based traffic routing or custom security provisions meeting strict compliance requirements and optimizing utilization of existing network capabilities while maintaining SLA. By logically untangling the existing mesh of legacy WAN networks, cost savings can be realized from leveraging Internet broadband and cellular data as cost-effective alternatives to private circuits on a global scale on one simplified overall architecture. However, managing such a network on top of various underlying network architectures-at scale-remains difficult, and SD-WAN overlay networks per se can not address physical poor-performing WAN connections; hence, ensuring a well managed underlying network architecture at the same time is key.

Common Approaches to SD-WAN
Several SD-WAN vendors exist in the market with particular focus and strength. In general, they can be classified as follows:

  • Appliance-based overlay solutions that create a virtual IP network between the vendor's appliances across any network, combined with vendor specific management tools.
  • Controller-based solutions that can auto-discover and configure network devices; and
  • Advanced automation and change control solutions that can enable and manage SD-WAN and the underlying infrastructure by leveraging existing hardware.

Each of them has specific advantages and disadvantage that position them in the SD-WAN market: Overlay solutions are attractive for many because they can be deployed quickly, but they may lack sufficient customizations or create additional complexity for troubleshooting. Controller-based solutions work effectively when environments are highly standardized. Network automation and change control solutions can address high customization requirements but may need additional time for implementation.

Can You Trust Your SD-WAN to Perform?
The challenge for enterprises is how to make a successful transition from the current state to the fully automated and integrated SD-WAN network of the future. Existing change control mechanisms are often ill-equipped to handle the complexity during transition. Especially with manual processes involved, configuration mistakes are unavoidable, and even the most elaborate testing may not find rare conditions that only reveal themselves when the network is under load at the most critical times.

Formal or independent verification and validation for networks is difficult. While computer code can be validated through notational or operational semantic methods to ensure correctness for all possible conditions, such analytical approaches are unpractical for business use, given frequently changing customization requirements. Therefore, enterprises are looking for network automation that will not only provide the capabilities to implement and maintain a logical IP network but also the capabilities to manage the underlying infrastructure, implicitly verifying and validating implemented architectures, detecting hidden dependencies and understanding the full impact of any change.

Network-Aware Orchestration Is Needed
Though all SD-WAN solutions create logical IP networks and make their management easier, to ensure that the network will perform optimally, they must also provide the next level of operational capabilities such as network-aware orchestration, with functionality such as:

  • Built-in proven, best-practice architectures for initial provisioning
  • Understand the network impact of any change ("network-aware")
  • Apply changes "in concert," understanding architectural dependencies
  • Resolve any hidden dependencies automatically when possible
  • Apply changes with minimal impact (e.g. avoid unnecessary reboots)
  • Monitor the configuration state of all devices in the network
  • Validate changes have been successfully applied or revert when needed
  • Limit direct manual access through a verifiable audited interface

With such advanced management and automation, additional verification and validation of the network can be performed, providing a solution that the network is in fact correctly configured and that, for example, any non-authorized manual changes are pro-actively detected and remediated swiftly.

Making the Transition
Moving from traditional networking to SDN is as much a technical as it is a cultural and organizational challenge. Nearly everything will change: initial network provisioning, configuration and change management, troubleshooting procedures, performance monitoring, and security, compliance and audit validation and verification.

In addition, as SD-WAN will simplify and bring more standardization across the network, there will also be increased requirements for specific customization when needed. Software developers need to align closely with network operations staff to understand in detail the requirements to be implemented addressing specific operational needs. This approach, generally referred to as "DevOps" has already proven faster time to market, better customization, fewer failures and more rapid recovery from negative events or misaligned changes.

Looking Ahead
Enterprise WANs will continue to grow, and complexity will increase. The ability to implement an SD-WAN solution that provides not only the technical ability to create a logical IP network but also related network automation and change management capabilities on the underlying network are critically important to ensure that the network will perform under critical loads.

Enterprises need to be aware that deep cultural changes are needed. "The way things have always been done" will no longer work. New tools are needed to manage the underlying heterogeneous service provider network technologies on the WAN, providing implicit application of validation, verification and remediation procedures to detect potential error conditions early. Those network-aware orchestration capabilities on the underlying infrastructure are critical and represent the next level for SD-WAN solutions, and they will deliver the network agility enterprises are looking for to compete in today's economy.

More Stories By Stefan Dietrich

Dr. Stefan Dietrich brings to Glue Networks more than 20 years of experience defining innovative strategies and delivering complex technology solutions. Before joining Glue Networks, he was Managing Director of Technology Strategy at AXA Technology Services, introducing advanced new technologies to AXA globally, and held senior IT management positions at Reuters and Deutsche Bank.

Stefan received a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Stuttgart and served as a Postdoctoral Fellow and faculty member at Cornell University.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@CloudExpo Stories
"ZeroStack is a startup in Silicon Valley. We're solving a very interesting problem around bringing public cloud convenience with private cloud control for enterprises and mid-size companies," explained Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP of Product Management at ZeroStack, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
"Infoblox does DNS, DHCP and IP address management for not only enterprise networks but cloud networks as well. Customers are looking for a single platform that can extend not only in their private enterprise environment but private cloud, public cloud, tracking all the IP space and everything that is going on in that environment," explained Steve Salo, Principal Systems Engineer at Infoblox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventio...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, provided a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to oper...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, James Henry, Co-CEO/CTO of Calgary Scientific Inc., introduced you to the challenges, solutions and benefits of training AI systems to solve visual problems with an emphasis on improving AIs with continuous training in the field. He explored applications in several industries and discussed technologies that allow the deployment of advanced visualization solutions to the cloud.
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, discussed how by using ne...
Vulnerability management is vital for large companies that need to secure containers across thousands of hosts, but many struggle to understand how exposed they are when they discover a new high security vulnerability. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, John Morello, CTO of Twistlock, addressed this pressing concern by introducing the concept of the “Vulnerability Risk Tree API,” which brings all the data together in a simple REST endpoint, allowing companies to easily grasp the severity of the ...
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, discussed how data centers of the future will be managed, how the p...
"NetApp is known as a data management leader but we do a lot more than just data management on-prem with the data centers of our customers. We're also big in the hybrid cloud," explained Wes Talbert, Principal Architect at NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...