The WAN space is becoming interesting with technologies such as VPLS (Virtual Private LAN Service), SDN (Software Defined Networks) and Hybrid WAN solutions. Over the past decade, there hasn’t been a huge advance in capability for the Enterprise. The tried and tested managed layer 3 MPLS VPN has been the staple for organisations. With QoS (Quality of Service) protecting applications and inherent inbuilt security, the reasons are pretty clear for MPLS VPN success. And, lets be clear – MPLS VPN is here to stay.
However, the market place is evolving with buzz around SDN and Hybrid services. With the buzz, a fair amount of confusion is also occurring regarding how these newer technologies may benefit the average Enterprise business. Software Defined Networking brings enhanced capability and lower cost to managed WAN and wires only services. At a high level, SDN decouples the intelligence from the device to a centralised software management platform. This has the effect of lowering the hardware cost since the device is no longer required to perform functionality other than passing traffic. The actual capability of your managed service increases as the open standard nature of SDN allows developers to create solutions out of software which is a step change from closed vendor specific capability. With so many contributors advancing SDN because of the open nature, the innovation means that SDN will evolve so much quicker than todays productised platform. There are certain WAN providers offering elements of software networking today, allowing their clients to make bandwidth and QoS changes on the fly in real time. Whilst this functionality does demonstrate a use of SDN, the overall promise is much more exciting. As an example, imagine a large Enterprise with a specific networking problem which cannot be resolved using todays capability without a great deal of non-standard support. SDN may mean a developer could be hired to create functionality which is both more supportable and simpler to install. Software will also allow devices to offer functionality which includes more granular capability. In todays networks, devices generally perform a specific role (there are exceptions). SDN will create an environment where the device will be able to perform multiple tasks drawing on the software architected by the developer. A switch with routing and deep packet inspection as an example.
Hybrid networking is fairly simple to understand in concept. A leased line is connected into your service provider network in very much the same way as any typical product today. The shift is the ability for the Enterprise to choose what technology the leased line becomes from Internet based services through to Layer 3 and Layer 2 Ethernet point to point and multipoint. The way in which providers achieve hybrid capability varies but the end result is similar in execution. An example of hybrid allows the circuit to share layer 3 VPN and Internet for remote users. This kind of functionality has been with us for a while but todays hybrid is offering access to more services.
SDN and Hybrid are set to change the world of managed WAN solutions with faster evolution of product features driven by open standards and connectivity which is capable of becoming the service required for any given site. We are not there yet but with vendors such as Cisco adopting SDN into their Nexus switch platform, the next few years should see some new products released onto the market.