Intentionally Making the Most of SD-WAN

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • Successfully deploying SD-WAN means moving from rigid, static policies to dynamic enforcement of your intentions.
  • Static rules should be a thing of the past and alternative equivalent controls should be evaluated for any lingering static requirements.

Few technologies make me sit up and say, “I want that!” when I see them, and SD-WAN is a game changing technology for organizations that have more than a handful of remote offices and want a better, more efficient way of interconnecting branches and a better, more efficient way to manage them. Regardless of the product you choose, and I discuss them in “SD-WAN H1 2016 Market Update: Vendor Snapshots Show a Crowded, Competitive Field Attempting to Diversify,” the benefits of SD-WAN will seem remarkable, fantastical even, until you see it in action. Implementing the routing, firewall, VPN, link load balancing, application performance, failover, failback, and cost management with traditional branch office equipment is very complex and even more complex to change, including adding new sites. Read more of this post

Cisco ACI and VMware NSX: Will Those Two Kids Ever Get Along?

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

• Cisco and VMware partner on many integration projects, but the lack of integration between Cisco ACI and VMware NSX has gone on too long.
• Bread crumbs of hints that collaboration between the two SDN units of each company may be a portent or wishful thinking.

Some might see CRN’s article Cisco CEO: We’re Talking With VMware About Closer Software-Defined Networking Relationship” where Cisco’s CEO, Chuck Robbins told the author “…I think our teams are talking about where there might be points that balance the competitive nature of the [Cisco – VMware] partnership, but also meet perhaps some of the emerging customer asks. So I think it that’s to be determined” as a positive assertion that the two companies are going to integrate the ACI and NSX. At last year’s VMworld in San Francisco, executives at VMware made a similar, albeit cryptic, statement as well. That these little bread crumbs are dropping may be a precursor to an announcement as early as this summer, but frankly, I’m not going to speculate on what the two companies could be planning.
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SDN Is Not an Iteration, It Is Innovative

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

• Innovation doesn’t mean the technology has to be net new. It just has to significantly change a direction.

• SDN has had and will continue to have a significant impact on enterprises and vendors for years to come.

SDN is many things to many people and the answer to the question “What is SDN?” will vary depending on who you ask. In fact, I’d say that SDN has become so overloaded that it has lost its meaning. But unlike my friend Greg Ferro, who thinks SDN is not an innovation, it’s iteration, I think SDN is innovative—or at least parts are—but more importantly, SDN unlocks innovation. Read more of this post

The Case for SD-WAN

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

• Your organization may be in the minority that won’t benefit from SD-WAN products replacing your existing WAN infrastructure, but for everyone else, there’s significant upside to moving to SD-WAN sooner rather than later.

• Algorithms in SD-WAN products rationalize competing demands such as current conditions and your pre-defined requirements to optimize application performance. Let go and get on with your day.

There are too many times when I see a technology and think, “Yeah, I want to buy that.” I’m talking technology, not products, in this note. SD-WAN is one of those technologies that I think has so much upside that no matter what product you pick the result will be far and away better than what you have, in particular for interconnecting remote sites. I’m not entirely convinced of the efficacy of SD-WAN for inter-data center connectivity. The key feature is operational simplicity when compared to how inter-office connectivity is achieved today. Read more of this post

No Doubt About It: SD-WAN Products Are Popping Up Like Daisies

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • Since 2012, the number of new products, product updates, and startups selling SD-WAN has been steadily increasing.
  • SD-WAN is attractive for both enterprises and service providers seeking to broaden their service portfolio, all of which will make for a very competitive field.

There’s nothing like a good visual to see if a technology is taking off. While putting together some data for a report on SD-WAN, I created a timeline of product launches and major product updates. To save space, I just listed the vendor, product, and version/feature. The items are ordered relative to each other, and I used dates from press releases or from conversations with the vendor. SD-WAN products create an over-the-top network between locations such as offices, data centers, and cloud services. SD-WAN relies on automation to create paths through the network based on policy requirements and definitions which may include path selection, application classification and management, and reporting. I’d even go so far as to say that any definition of SD-WAN requires encapsulation of traffic between sites as a fundamental component. Read more of this post

SDN and OpenFlow World Congress: Let’s Kick Some Puppies, or Why Open Source Poses a Business Risk

Mike Fratto

Mike Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • Open source seems great on the surface, but vendors commit more than time and code to a project, and that can be risky.
  • Customers need to understand how vendors will address shortcomings in products based on open source.

At the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in Dusseldorf, I chaired a debate called “Building the Ecosystem for NFV, Impact of Open Source” with Brian Aherne, Director of Intel’s Network Computing Division EMEA; Ari Banerjee, Senior Director of Strategy at NEC/NetCracker; Valérie Noto, Director of the CloudBand Ecosystem, Alcatel-Lucent; Recep Ozdag, Senior Director at Ciena; Prodip Sen, Director/CTO, Network Functions Virtualization at HP; and Walter Zielinski, Senior Director, Core Network at Huawei. It was a lively debate, with everyone in agreement (despite my poking and prodding) that open source is good, everyone collaborates, and lets all hug – until Recep Ozdag, and then Ari Banerjee, made a comment at the very end to the effect that open source development doesn’t automatically mean faster or better development. A colleague pointed out they may as well have kicked a puppy. Read more of this post

VMworld 2015: With NSX 6.2, VMware Encroaches on More Product Markets

  • Mike Fratto

    Mike Fratto

    VMware announced a number of new features for NSX which are necessary, but incremental.

  • VMware’s technology partners need to be wary when the company enters their market.

On the run up to VMworld 2015 VMware released NSX 6.2 which added a few new features such as inter vCenter NSX support, universal firewall rules, security groups, logical routers, and logical switches, and a new troubleshooting tool called Traceflow. Collectively, these are important but incremental updates to NSX. A bigger game changer coming at the end of September is the integration between the virtual and physical network when VMware and its hardware networking partners like HP complete the support of OVSDB in NSX to manage hardware virtual tunnel end-points (VTEPs). In the far distant future, VMware will also support virtual networking with cloud services like Amazon Web Services by creating a VM that runs a virtual switch which NSX can then manage. Read more of this post

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Net Admins Grow Up to be Programmers

Mike Fratto

Mike Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • Network administrators learning how to program is a benefit to employees and employer, but it shouldn’t be a requirement.
  • SDN promises many things including operational simplicity. Programming isn’t operationally simple and your network admins shouldn’t be doing it.

Even if SDN isn’t having an impact on data centers like my colleague Steve Hill thinks, the idea is certainly having a ripple effect within IT departments and among network professionals considering their career path. One common topic the keep recurring is whether network professionals need to become programmers to remain relevant.Kirk Byers thinks programming will be an essential skill for network engineers and points to the number of commercial and open source tools and controllers that have APIs and SDKs that can be used to stitch together various components into an automated and orchestrated network. In principle, I think the more network professionals know about how their systems work and integrate together, the better off they will be career-wise and the greater value they will be to their employers; but I generally disagree with the premise. Besides, if network professionals also have to be developers, then the entire networking industry will have failed to deliver one of the key benefits of SDN – easier operations.
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Which Is Better: Automation or SDN?

Mike Fratto

Mike Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • You can use automation without software-defined networking (SDN), but you cannot use SDN without automation.
  • Many enterprises will gain enough benefits from automation and may not need to migrate to SDN.

The answer, of course, is whatever option works for you is the one that’s best, but that is a little too facile, so let’s dig in a bit. Automating operations such as scripting configuration changes and responding to events has enormous value for any IT department. When I actually worked in a data center, my rule of thumb was: if I did something more than three times in a month, I’d automate it, including the little atomic actions such as changing the syslog entries on a switch which could take as many as five to seven command line entries. Automation saved me hours, perhaps days, per month executing configuration changes (and even more because I had far fewer errors). Read more of this post

Open Network Users Group: WAN SDN a Major Theme

Mike Fratto

Mike Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • ONUG is a user-led networking conference chock-full of good content for enterprise IT.
  •  The main theme was WAN SDN, where enterprises try to make better use of their WAN pipes.

The Open Network User Group (ONUG) is a really good show for network administrators from enterprises of all sizes to learn from their peers at larger enterprises. ONUG’s focus is on user-to-user interaction, and in that respect, the majority of the talks, in particular the morning sessions, were given or led by senior IT and network professionals and reflected issues that are faced across a spectrum of enterprises. Read more of this post