Networking / Technology / Contributed

SD-WAN Must Tackle the Multidomain Problem

16 Jul 2019 6:00am, by

Chris Wade
Chris Wade serves as the co-founder and CTO of Itential, a network automation software company focused on simplifying and accelerating the adoption of network automation and transforming network operations practices.

SD-WAN (software-defined networking in a wide area network) was originally touted as a way to leverage both private (MPLS) and public (internet) networks to route traffic to the most appropriate network. Over time, SD-WAN has evolved and enabled the acceleration for more innovative services. In an effort to extend SD-WAN into a multicloud reality, SD-WAN 2.0 enhances security and analytics while connecting innovation at the edge with application and cloud concepts. While we have seen tremendous innovation in the cloud ecosystems, network and application domains are adopting similar concepts to build software-centric, programmable networks.

Given these applications and networks now span clouds, data centers, WANs, LANs, and edge, the automation of networks should be viewed as a Multidomain problem. Each domain has unique challenges which should be automated locally while providing an end-to-end capability to align with the target network reality.

Applications and services are becoming more distributed and require connectivity and policy enforcement across a variety of domains. Whether it is zero-trust security, intelligent network automation, or any modern networking strategy, management of these network concepts require us to re-think how we have traditionally operated networks.

Each of these network segments has a domain strategy which has evolved to solve domain-specific problems. Examples include YANG based modeling for Layer2/3 networks and The Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications (TOSCA) for cloud applications. Physical networks continue to be dominated by the command-line interface (CLI), while cloud applications are moving to REST API concepts. Rather than integrating with each instance that exists in the physical or cloud network, the introduction of controllers and orchestration allows a network automation strategy based on the manipulation of software platforms. Enterprise networks today consist of a combination of all of these domains.

SD-WAN 2.0 and multicloud solutions must include a multidomain strategy to provide coordinated service creation as well as basic operations and configuration management capabilities. Traditional network management concepts rely on siloed strategies with organizational and technical solutions for each domain. Given modern services are distributed across a complex networking environment, network automation strategies need to focus on integrating these multiple domains under a comprehensive, end-to-end network automation platform.

Applications and services are becoming more distributed and require connectivity and policy enforcement across a variety of domains. Whether it is zero-trust security, intelligent network automation, or any modern networking strategy, management of these network concepts require us to re-think how we have traditionally operated networks.

Historical silos that existed based on manufacturer or network segments are being replaced by domain controllers and solutions. While a step forward, we need to resist allowing each domain to verticalize and retract to similar, previous strategies which limited innovation over the last 20 years. We need an end-to-end strategy that focuses on platforms and connecting all of the components into a programmable fabric, focused on the rate of change rather than outage aversion which dominates strategies today.

Cloud vendors are further down this journey and focus on platforms to solve similar problems and view layers of abstraction critical to simplifying a complex problem. Ongoing efforts to verticalize individual network domains will only complicate attempts to solve these problems. Collectively, the ecosystem should focus on the adoption of more cloud concepts rather than unique, bespoke solutions for networking. The programmable concepts of networks at both the device and orchestration layer have unlocked innovation of the management plane of the network. SD-WAN 2.0 and multicloud management highlights the need to adopt these constructs and is a great use case to drive network automation platforms and their role in providing a programmable network.

Feature image via Pixabay.

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