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Enterprises are attracted to software-defined WAN's compelling benefits of improved application performance and reduced costs. But the future of SD-WAN will merge with the network edge, hybrid cloud and 5G. Glances into these networking developments indicate the need for SD-WAN to support additional capabilities.
As SD-WAN, the network edge, hybrid cloud and 5G shift and mature, preparing network infrastructure and software capabilities to support these areas has become crucial, said Sanjay Uppal, VP and GM of the VeloCloud business unit at VMware.
As it currently stands, VMware SD-WAN by VeloCloud has experienced a good amount of market growth, and it is coming out of its first full year under VMware with 3,500 customers and 70 telecom and service provider partners, Uppal said.
"Our CEO, Pat Gelsinger, has said publicly that SD-WAN is the fastest growing product in VMware right now," he added.
But as SD-WAN continues to mature, Uppal said VMware-VeloCloud is preparing for changes in how enterprises approach SD-WAN. One such development is the future of SD-WAN as a broader platform that integrates with analytics and security tools. An expanded SD-WAN platform would use data patterns and network performance information -- gleaned from thousands of customer deployments -- to detect patterns, determine fixes and automate policy changes, Uppal said.
"It comes up with a fix, changes the business policy and pushes that down from the cloud -- and all the edges have the new business policy," he said.
But pushing policy changes from one end of the network to the other requires communication across all the edge and cloud endpoints.
SD-WAN, the edge and hybrid cloud
Enterprises can deploy SD-WAN -- as a virtual or physical appliance -- at each distributed branch location and manage those sites using a centralized management console. But VeloCloud is intrigued by the possibility of using those SD-WAN edge appliances to run additional applications, Uppal said.
"We're looking to extend our reach from a VeloCloud edge perspective to run general-purpose compute," he said.
For example, if a customer wanted to run an application with lower compute requirements, it could run that application on the SD-WAN device instead of spinning up a separate infrastructure and servers, he said. These compute capabilities would be integrated into the VeloCloud edge appliance.
To tackle this compute integration with SD-WAN, Uppal said VeloCloud needs to determine how to best integrate the application deployment and lifecycle management with the management plane in a cloud environment or data center.
Enterprises can run applications and workloads in various cloud destinations -- like Amazon, Azure or Google -- for multiple reasons, including pricing or security considerations. But accessing and managing these disparate locations has grown increasingly complex.
"We want to simplify hybrid and multi-cloud so customers can go in from the network configurator and figure out where their workloads are," Uppal said.
The future of SD-WAN and 5G
Anybody following the networking industry -- or, likely, anybody at all -- has probably heard about 5G and its potential to lower latency.
Sanjay UppalVP and GM of the VeloCloud business unit, VMware
Although 5G networks aren't fully developed, Uppal said he believes an SD-WAN running on 5G could result in "single milliseconds kind of latency."
Another potential use case for SD-WAN running on a 5G network infrastructure could capitalize on network slicing, which divvies up independent virtual networks based on the users, applications and devices -- all according to their performance and quality of service needs.
"The network could divide the same network into different subnetworks and provide customers with a designated connection," Uppal said. "You could use this to prioritize which application goes first and on what network slice versus another."
Admittedly, this is one of the more futuristic visions of SD-WAN and 5G. But Uppal said VMware-VeloCloud will first target enterprises that could jump onto a local or public 5G network -- neither of which is ubiquitous now, he said. As of now, VMware-VeloCloud has partnered with AT&T, which has deployed 5G in a handful of cities.
VMware-VeloCloud's initial step to prepare its SD-WAN software and devices for 5G will be to use an Ethernet handoff, which won't require an immediate upgrade to the SD-WAN appliance, Uppal said.
"A VeloCloud appliance will connect through Ethernet to a hotspot 5G carriers are making available," he said. "The other side of that hotspot will be the 5G network."
The first SD-WAN appliances VMware-VeloCloud intends to update for 5G support are its 510 appliances, which currently have 4G connectivity enabled, he said. It will then upgrade the rest of its SD-WAN appliances to support 5G as it becomes more readily available.
While some of these SD-WAN endeavors and developments might sound risky -- for both enterprises and vendors -- Uppal shared a unique piece of technology advice. "Go watch The Big Lebowski because all of life's lessons are in that one movie," he said. "Everything, including SD-WAN: Take a chance."