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Glue Networks brings orchestration to Cisco SDN WAN

Glue Networks marries orchestration and SDN WAN so engineers can spin up network abstractions while applying traffic optimization policies.

Glue Networks demonstrated SDN WAN orchestration software this week at the Open Networking User Group in New York City, highlighting how automated provisioning and policy enforcement are key pieces to the programmability puzzle.

SDN WAN was top of mind at the Open Networking User Group (ONUG) where board members voted to make programmability in the wide area a top-priority use case, ahead of data center technologies like network overlays and service virtualization.

Meanwhile, many at the show were talking about SDN WAN companies CloudGenix and vIPtela, which both came out of stealth mode this month with technology that automatically provisions virtual networks across aggregated MPLS and broadband WAN links.

Glue doesn't want to sell customers an entire virtual WAN infrastructure. Instead, its Gluware orchestration software brings dynamic network service policy implementation and automated configuration of routers and switches to Cisco WAN environments.

The platform collects the full state of every node on the network and monitors the health of each link in real time. Using this network health information and application policy, Gluware automates best path selection for traffic prioritization across both MPLS and broadband links.

"If SAP wants to make a call across the WAN from the data center controller, then you need a traffic cop to say, 'No you can't have top priority because the CEO is on a video call,'" explained Glue CEO Jeff Gray. Gluware then finds a more appropriate path -- sometimes configuring new nodes to do so.

Glue Networks' SDN WAN in action

Glue's orchestration engine is now officially part of Cisco's product list and can be resold by Cisco partners. One of those partners is World Wide Technology (WWT), which wanted to kick the tires on Gluware before selling it.

WWT has plenty of need for dynamic WAN provisioning. Many of its 2400 employees are traveling network engineers who need constant access to the corporate network. The company also uses video to stay connected for both internal and customer meetings. That means WWT has to deliver high-performance multimedia into branch offices as well as employee homes -- not an inexpensive proposition, explained WWT Vice President of Information Technology Mike Taylor.

"Our largest apprehension was around performance of Internet-based services coming into the office against hig-speed going out," explained Taylor. "A couple of T-1 lines weren't going to cut it."

There was also concern about connections between branch offices since at times communication is heavier between two remote sites -- for example, Phoenix and Southern California -- than between a branch and the St. Louis headquarters, Taylor said.

Glue offers dynamic WAN provisioning to solve that problem. WWT had an MPLS network to connect its international sites, but opted for more flexible and less-expensive broadband Internet-based VPN links within domestic regions.

Gluware "automates the provisioning and ongoing management of head ends," Gray said. The Gluware engine also directs Cisco branch routers throughout the U.S., running voice, video, telepresence and real-time data over broadband connections, he said. The engine automatically deploys a router anywhere there is an Internet connection and extends the network, Gray explained. That means voice, video and data can be routed between MPLS and broadband links, depending on the health of each path. It also means links don't have to be maintained when they're not being used.

Where Gluware and Cisco APIC meet for SDN WAN

Gluware sits above the control plane and can speak directly to network devices, but it now also interacts with Cisco's APIC Enterprise Module (APIC EM) -- the SDN WAN controller announced this winter.

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Gluware and the APIC EM controller are in constant dialogue. From the controller, Gluware receives full knowledge of every node in the network architecture, and in turn it sends direction in service and management policy back to the controller. The engine is used to set watermarks for voice, video and data. It sees threshold violations coming and can reroute accordingly. It also consistently verifies security and policy changes made by the controller.

At ONUG, Gray demonstrated how Gluware can receive topology information from Cisco APIC EM and then remotely configure switches to initiate a new path in real-time with no glitch.

WWT is now in the process of training its own channel to take Cisco WAN SDN with Glue Networks to market.

That sales force will be up against mounting competition that may be able to bring programmability to a wider range of multi-vendor SDN WANs. But Glue's Gray said the company will continue to push forward in a strategy that can bring programmability to legacy Cisco networks, as well as those migrating to Cisco SDN.

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