There is no Cloud. Really.
CEO and Co-Founder, VeloCloud
January 3, 2017
Thanks to Chris Watterston for the above #2 best selling sticker on Sticker Mule! Since ‘tis the season to be jolly, it is akin to a kid who figures out – there really is no Santa, it is just someone’s Dad in a red suit. But rather than the downside of the revelation, for me, this captures the advantage of the Cloud revolution for IT in general, and SD-WAN in particular.
Lots of businesses have moved their IT – data centers, applications and storage to the Cloud, and networking is just the fourth phase of that movement to the cloud. The Cloud is just someone else’s computer – for SD-WAN it is VeloCloud or one of our MSP or SP partners. The obvious downside of using someone else’s infrastructure is loss of control especially in a business critical area. However, if that control is provided to you, yet relieving you of the burden of installing, configuring, operating and maintaining your own infrastructure then the upside is tremendous. And that is the essence of VeloCloud Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN. The WAN functions are delivered as an outsourced service by VeloCloud and our channel partners, whilst allowing the enterprise to concentrate on their core business and focus on the outcome of the service rather than the ownership of the infrastructure. Therefore, The Cloud Is The NetworkTM.
Over the short span of 30 months we are fortunate to have 600 Enterprises, 50,000+ sites and more than 40 Service Providers in every stage of deployment. Through this lens, we’ve been able to extract the three architectural underpinnings of our Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN and the value to them.
SD-WAN as a Cloud Service
Even compared to 3 years ago, there is a sea change in the eagerness of businesses to move their IT to the Cloud. The key benefit of focusing on the outcome of the deployment rather than the ownership of the infrastructure naturally leads to the consumption of SD-WAN as a service. This is even more of a truism when the applications being accessed are cloud services themselves . So as private data centers consolidated in the late 1990’s, cloud data centers and applications delivered over the public networks became more prevalent. And when the rest of IT is being delivered from the Cloud, so should the WAN!
Further, the ownership or Product model breaks down when cloud applications are being accessed, as the Cloud application provider is not going to deploy separate infrastructure on behalf of each enterprise. SD-WAN as a service dovetails nicely, both technically and from a business model perspective, with the cloud applications. The outcome or Service model requires an architecture built from the ground up for multi-tenancy in all three planes – management, control and data, and a business model that allows the service to be consumed on a subscription basis.
Sometimes SD-WAN as a Cloud Service is confused with providing the underlying WAN transport as a Service. While Service Providers will often want to provide both of these as a service, and there is unprecedented demand for a combined offering delivered by a facilities-based Service Provider, there is also enough demand for SD-WAN to be consumed as a service separate from the transport. At VeloCloud we took the deliberate decision to partner with Service Providers rather than providing WAN transport as a service ourselves.
SD-WAN as an Abstraction Layer
This follows directly from Wheeler’s Fundamental Theorem of Software Engineering – “Any problem in computer science can be solved with another level of abstraction (indirection).” SD-WAN as an overlay is an abstraction layer on top of the WAN transport. Using our Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN, the Enterprise connects to the Cloud as the Network and uses business policies rather than technical configurations to meet their business goals. Therefore, the specifics of how each transport (MPLS, Broadband, LTE, LPWAN…) operates is abstracted to provide a simpler control mechanism.
But there is a question as to what degree is SD-WAN a good abstraction layer. The goodness comes from the ability to hide the complexity of the layers underneath whilst supporting all of the functionality of the underlay.
I do hear from our customers that they believe we have done the best job of both – hiding the complexity by automation and supporting the most difficult of traffic patterns, aka real-time applications, through our overlay.
SD-WAN as a Platform
In the early days of the IETF, Steve Knowles is supposed to have first said “IP on Everything” and later Vint Cerf extended it to “IP on Everything and Everything on IP.” This IP truism is certainly true in the SD-WAN context, but in a broader sense we can say “SD-WAN on Everything and Everything on SD-WAN.”
A really good measure of the success of SD-WAN will be its use by new data types, network functions and cloud applications. Today http, rtp, smtp, sip etc. all run well, even better on SD-WAN. The applications that use these protocols in increasing numbers run better in a distributed enterprise on SD-WAN, the same business policies work regardless of whether the application is in the Cloud or not, whether it is real-time, transactional or bulk and whether the traffic patterns are hub-spoke or spoke to spoke or hybrid. But SD-WAN will also undoubtedly serve as the platform for Fog and IoT. For reasons of Fog computing at the edge, the need to aggregate traffic from various sources and the need to run IoT stacks on the same enterprise WAN, the Edge-Gateway-Cloud architecture of SD-WAN wins out over WAN-specific models. We are already seeing several use cases in the Industrial IoT for running on SD-WAN.
Networking functions also make use of the simplicity and reach of the SD-WAN by using its orchestration, service chaining and abstraction capabilities to run virtual instances at the edge or in the Cloud or in both places. When Networked Security and Application Management functions do not need any physical infrastructure but can be run as VNF’s alongside SD-WAN, we have the true makings of a Platform.
Putting It All Together
I am often asked, what can go wrong in the rapid roll-out of SD-WAN, and I get reminded of what Leslie Lamport said “A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you didn’t even know existed can render your own computer unusable.” (AZQuotes). That was particularly true in the days of tightly integrated distributed systems that held state. SD-WANs today, and particularly the cloud-delivered ones like that from VeloCloud use loose coupling and stateless gateways. That coupled with the obvious redundancy of several transports, distributed orchestrators and a one to many connection model help us overcome Lamport’s truism architecturally.
It is not very often that we see a fundamental architectural shift in mission critical infrastructure. Cloud SD-WAN is proving to be one of those shifts that is unfolding before us. This promises to be the mother of all disruptions in Networking and is a treat to watch and be a part of.
It is thanks to you our customers, partners, channels, advisers and well-wishers that have made this journey enjoyable for all VeloCloudians!
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