WANs a Growing Focus for SDN Vendors

Fujitsu and Viptela are the latest companies to offer solutions that apply SDN capabilities to organizations' WANs.

Wide-area networks are getting increasing attention from vendors looking to leverage software-defined networking capabilities to make configuring and managing this increasingly complex part of the network easier.

Fujitsu is the latest company to unveil solutions for better wide-area network (WAN) products that use software-defined networking (SDN) principles, with the introduction May 9 of Network Virtuora NC and Network Virtuora SN-V. The products are part of Fujitsu's larger Intelligent Networking and Computing Architecture, which aims to bring SDN to all parts of the network.

Fujitsu's new product introduction was the latest in a series of announcements from vendors looking to address challenges in WANs that are under pressure from such computing trends as cloud computing, greater worker mobility, high-bandwidth mobile and cloud apps, and bring-your-own-device (BYOD). Until recently, most of the discussion around SDN and its close relative, network-functions virtualization (NFV), has centered around data center infrastructures.

SDN and NFV promise networks that are more flexible, programmable, scalable and automated by uncoupling the network control plane and applications like load-balancing and firewalls from the underlying hardware and putting it into software.

In recent weeks, a growing amount of attention has been placed on the WAN. The job of WANs—connecting users and applications, with all the necessary performance and resiliency, and at a good price—is not as easy as it seems, according to Gartner analyst Andrew Lerner. Networking professionals need to deal with new models like software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS), as well as technologies from firewalls and virtual private networks (VPNs) to routing protocols and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS).

"And this is only getting more complicated/tedious with the explosion in cloud and mobility, as you're now responsible for more user and application 'locations,'" he wrote in a post on the analyst firm's blog. "In essence, you no longer own the WAN but are still responsible for its performance (gone are the days where the majority of your users sit in corporate offices on corporate-owned devices connecting to apps run out of the corporate data center). … We're now seeing the emergence of newer entrants focused on simplifying WAN configuration/orchestration along with SDN-like capability."

That includes not only interest from established vendors like Fujitsu, Cisco Systems and Oracle, but also a crop of startups like CloudGenix, Viptela and Glue Networks. Fujitsu officials said the new products are aimed at addressing the packet communications part of WANs, with other areas—including broadband optical transmission and wireless access—being incorporated later. The offerings enable organizations to build virtual networks that include centralized management, making it easier for businesses to build new communications environments and services, they said.

With its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) strategy, Cisco officials have talked about extending the capabilities of network virtualization from the data center to the WAN and access networks. Hewlett-Packard also is looking to extend SDN and NFV to the WAN, and Oracle in January announced it was buying Corente, a vendor whose technology will enable Oracle to offer products for cloud deployments with SDN solutions that virtualize both the LAN and WAN.

"Corente's cloud-based service delivery platform quickly establishes trusted network services between public or private cloud data centers and any location over any IP network regardless of the type of transport, access, application, or provider involved," Edward Screven, chief corporate architect for Oracle, said in a letter to customers and partners when the deal was announced.

More recently, some startups have come out of stealth mode with products or plans for addressing WAN challenges with SDN capabilities. CloudGenix officials—who come from such places as Cisco, Juniper Networks, Facebook and Palo Alto Networks—announced the company and $9 million in financing April 30. Officials said the company's Software-Defined WAN (SDEwan) products apply business and security policies to applications coming from multiple sources, including private, public and hybrid clouds and mobile devices and into the remote offices.

Less than a week later, Viptela hit the scene with its Secure Extensible Network (SEN), which includes the company's vEdge routers, vSmart Controller for the overlay network and vManage Network Management System for automated configuration, management and monitoring.

Gartner's Lerner also noted Glue—whose Gluware software is designed for WAN orchestration—and Anuta Networks, which offers an orchestration solution aimed at the entire network, from the data center to the branch.