Almost any business with remote locations or branch offices will have challenges with their Wide Area Network (WAN) portion of their corporate network, and the fast pace and changing landscape of today’s business makes it difficult to enforce consistency and security on remote locations. Last year, Glue Networks introduced a product to help orchestrate Cisco Systems WAN connections with an overlay, creating what is called a software defined wide area network, ” SD WAN”, that sits on top of the existing equipment, managing and monitoring the health. In simple English, it can help make IT staff more productive by taking a lot of the manual CLI (command line interface) drudgery away and helping reduce a company’s operational costs, making the network less of a bottleneck for business. Now Glue Networks has introduced a newerversion of their WAN orchestration platform, if you’re looking for a detailed drill-down, you can download our paper here.
The WAN connects all of the resources between the headquarters and branch locations, exponentially increasing complexity because there is a network on either side along with a secure connection between the two. Everything must be configured just right (and stay that way) in order to ensure that remote locations can access all of the applications and services that they need while also making sure that outsiders cannot.
Most enterprises understand the pain of WAN management. Cisco Systems is the most pervasive player in the networking game, so by default they capture a majority share of the WAN market. As a Cisco Systems partner, Glue Networks has created an overlay orchestration platform that not only makes WAN connections easier to configure and manage, but most importantly, does not require a company to rip out their underlying Cisco infrastructure. For companies like a global pharma company using Glue Networks’ product, it means that they can reduce their risk in making the switch because they don’t have to “simply add another device” to the chain like other products on the market.
“Why does any of this matter? Once set up, doesn’t a WAN just “run itself” at that point?
If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, any time new applications are added or changed at the headquarters, that change needs to be comprehended by the WAN as well so that remote offices aren’t left in the dark – or worse, insecure.
Credit: Glue Networks
Application changes are happening more frequently as businesses are either moving to the cloud or using more cloud processes in a bid to be more flexible. This is especially true for the application developers who are tasked with quickly cranking out new applications or functionality changes in order to compete in a more agile world. A process called “Dev Ops” is helping application development move closer to “cloud speed” by breaking down the silos between development and operations, which can result in faster time to market. Instead of handling just a few applications a year, they can now deliver a much larger number; but the bad news is that while Dev Ops accelerates the delivery of applications, they come screeching to a halt when it is time to provision (setting up and assigning network resources) the network. What exactly is provisioning? When you set up a new WAN connection you will make sure that firewall, router, load balancer, network packet inspection, security, etc. are all configured properly.
Applications can be created and deployed in weeks, but network (and WAN) complexity makes provisioning the network resources very laborious. What Gluware 2.0 can do is bring these Dev Ops methodologies and processes to the world of network engineering so that network resources can be deployed as quickly as applications. If you have the equivalent of an autobahn for your application development, you don’t want your network provisioning to be the slow driver in the left lane that just won’t get out of your way, it should be driving at the same speed as the other traffic. I cannot tell you how many times I talk to a CIO or the networking VP and they talk about how they can spin up a server VM and app in hours, but it takes the network 60 days. Yes, it’s that bad.
The challenge is making a network easier without “dumbing things down.” Network engineers are historically skeptical of anything that doesn’t let them drill down and twist every knob using a CLI, so Gluware 2.0 still gives them that level of manual control. This flexibility led a major consumer products company to deploy because they could simplify things, but still let their engineers into “the plumbing” if needed. By being network aware, Gluware understands what is happening within the network and can adjust from there, either using a company’s specific rules or industry best practices.
Network state is critical because if you are a large financial services company for instance, one of best ways to ensure security is to know the state of all network devices at all times and whether there are any changes. Gluware can help enforce compliance and reduce risk in real time rather than waiting for an audit to turn up the bad news.
Beyond helping a business move faster to access new revenue opportunities, the other big benefit of automation is being able to easily create and manage “hybrid” WAN connections. To maintain remote accessibility for critical business applications, a costly, high quality connection like MPLS (Multiprotocol label switching), with great performance but generally low bandwidth, is used. But now rapid increases in lower priority network traffic (like web browsing, video, etc.), are overloading these expensive connections. Broadband Internet, which brings “good enough” quality, lots of bandwidth and low prices solves this problem, but now the WAN needs to be able to sort out which traffic goes over which connection. It like having tap water and Perrier piped into your restaurant; you don’t want to see sparkling water every time you flush the toilet. Gluware 2.0 helps enterprises configure and manage a hybrid WAN, allowing them to keep the high priority application traffic on the MPLS connection and keep the low priority web traffic on the broadband connection – while allowing either to fail over to the other if a problem arises.
With their new Gluware 2.0 orchestration platform, Glue Networks is using software defined networking (SDN) to bring some relief to customers by helping to remove the pains of WAN management, reducing the operating costs and allowing them to be more agile, capturing new business in these changing times. All of this can be done without losing the existing investments in Cisco Systems equipment. And with the extensibility of the platform, it should be relatively easy for Glue to add support for other devices beyond Cisco, bringing those benefits to an even wider range of businesses down the road.