One of the key themes from the first day of ONUG was around the idea that ONUG working groups can come together to accomplish great things. When the brightest customer minds have a chance to work together to create a better solution to a common problem, the result can shape and industry. Or, in the case of SD-WAN, it can create one.
Building A Better WAN
WAN connections between company sites or branch offices used to be the stuff of legend and magic. WAN interconnectivity was always the balance of dealing with service providers and esoteric protocols from a time long, long ago. Building the hardware to create a connection required money and trained professionals. And deploying those hardware devices across the globe tied up resources that were better used in other roles. WANs became expensive and difficult to maintain.
ONUG led the charge during their first meeting to address these issues. The working groups realized that the power of software defined networking (SDN) gave them even more flexibility and capability to program the network. Indeed, the first demonstrations of SDN back in 2011 and 2012 were focused on simple problems like finding the least-cost path in a series of WAN links and choosing the optimal one for a time of day or data transit cost. This “routing for dollars” demo showed the power of SDN and a use case that it could achieve.
With the support of ONUG and others, the use case for SDN in the WAN evolved into its own industry. Led by companies like CloudGenix, Viptela, and VeloCloud, new opportunities arose to simplify the management of WAN connections between branches. Central controllers orchestrated the task of deployment to the point where anyone could connect the device via phone call instead of a plane ticket. Circuit configuration was no longer the stuff of days gone by and instead became something handled remotely by the best people.
SD-WAN also allowed more services to be built on top of traditional WANs. Now, traffic could be encrypted end-to-end. Analytics could provide solid numbers about traffic patterns, which could then be used to provide intelligent decisions about application routing patterns. And even the metrics collected could be used with service providers to ensure service level agreements (SLAs) were being met.
SD-WAN Today: Moving To Mainstream
Thanks to the efforts of the SD-WAN pioneers, ONUG is no longer a place to discuss the technical feasibility of SD-WAN. Instead, the conversation has shifted to finding the best fit for deployment. The respondents to the ONUG pre-event survey all indicated they are either in early trials or beginning to deploy SD-WAN technologies. No other technology has seen such overwhelming support.
The conversations about SD-WAN on Day 1 weren’t so much about explaining how it works as they were about providing justification to start the proof-of-concept trials. ONUG constituents like Kindred Healthcare and Gap are quickly rolling out massive SD-WAN deployments to reduce costs and simplify management. The success stories of SD-WAN are highlighting the next wave of adoption in enterprises down the food chain.
One of the ONUG attendees told me that he’s glad the talk has shifted away from SD-WAN. When I asked why that was a good thing, he said that the maturity of SD-WAN means that ONUG has accomplished the mission they set forth in 2013. Now it was time to move to other technologies and challenges that needed to be solved. This does make sense on the surface. Providing the value of SD-WAN and fostering development is how ONUG has allowed this technology to grow and mature to the level of support it enjoys today. It’s not longer a question of if you will be adopting SD-WAN, but when.
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