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Cisco Issues SD-WAN 'Bill of Rights'

In the past couple of months, and particularly the last few days or so with next week's VMware's VMworld event looming large, I've received a lot of outreach around software-defined WAN, or SD-WAN. Cisco, Glue Networks, Ipanema Technologies, Silver Peak, Talari, Velocloud, Viptela (and I'm sure I missed a few)... everybody has a story to tell about how their technology can help enterprise network managers optimize delivery of application traffic across the wide area using broadband Internet connections.

They're speaking to an attentive audience (if not always a buying one, yet). The traditional enterprise WAN, with its hub-and-spoke architecture, is the source of considerable grief for companies as they increase their use of cloud services for application delivery and wireless Internet connectivity for mobile workers. Needing to pass cloud-based app and Internet traffic through a central site, over an MPLS or private IP network, and then down to the branch -- and vice versa -- just doesn't cut it.

It's become clear to many enterprise network managers by now that they need to fix the WAN situation or face the consequences that come with a static, inefficient model that hinders business agility (see related story, Software-Defined Networking Headed to Enterprise WAN). And so they're glomming onto to the idea of the SD, or hybrid, WAN.


SD-WAN technology is particularly appealing in that it allows companies to bring secure, reliable and cost-effective broadband connectivity to remote locations via virtual network overlays (see related story, Silver Peak Delivers SD WAN Overlay"). But SD-WAN is just part of the story leading to transformation at the branch, says Jason Rolleston, Cisco's senior director of product management in the Enterprise Networking business and leader of the company's SD-WAN effort.

"If you really just stay hyper-focused on SD-WAN you might miss the forest through the trees here," he told me in a recent interview. "There's a broader story, and we need to talk about all of it."

By all of it, Rolleston is referring to things like virtualization's creep into the branch, increased digitization with the rise of the Internet of Things and sensors everywhere, and greater reliance on real-time communications. Not only do enterprises need SD-WANs, they need the ability to shift traffic from one pipe to the next with speed and ease per policy.

To get folks thinking about the big picture, Cisco has "put things down to paper" in what it's calling a "WAN Bill of Rights," Rolleston says. And, yes, while many of the points contained in this WAN Bill of Rights seem as basic as those principles spelled out in the first 10 amendments of the U.S. Constitution, they really aren't, he adds. "Some may come across as self-evident, and that they exist already, but we found in many cases that they really don't. So a large part of what's happening through SD-WAN and otherwise is understanding that, look, there are some things that you should be doing and can do that are really going to be quite transformative, not just for the business and IT but the whole way that the network works and enables the business -- and the way we and customers do our work."

Cisco doesn't expect every company to embrace each of the 10 rights it's articulated in this document, but it does hope these ideas, pulled together as one, will get everybody thinking a bit harder about SD-WAN in the grand scheme of things, Rolleston says. "As people think about how they're going to run and operate the WAN, we want to make sure they have the whole picture in mind."

So, without further avail, click to the next page (below) to read Cisco's WAN Bill of Rights.

Cisco's WAN Bill of Rights

  1. The Right to Monitor and Tune Application Performance. Getting the best user experience from your applications requires you to know what is on your WAN. Look for solutions that have the ability identify applications passing over your WAN and give you the capability to prioritize your most mission critical data and then optimize to save bandwidth.
  2. The Right to Never Visit a Branch Again. No network manager should have to waste countless hours on routine drudgework like managing security and compliance controls, unlocking features and tramping to remote offices to patch or reconfigure hardware. Look for solutions that let you automate the delivery of business-critical applications from a single location by using templates to quickly spin up new locations reducing complexity, cost and risk of human error.
  3. The Right to Choose Your WAN Connectivity. You have the right to choose the WAN transport that best suits your ever-changing needs for bandwidth, security, and performance. The lower cost of business class Internet and 4G LTE can make them compelling alternatives to traditional MPLS links. SD-WAN solutions should enable applications to choose the best path based on business policy and the cost and quality of the link for improved reliability and lower management costs.
  4. The Right to Experience Rich Media. An increase in users and devices in the branch can drive up network costs by streaming huge amounts of data over the WAN. Look for SD-WAN solutions that let you cache content locally, especially high-definition video and visual content. You can reduce latency and increase bandwidth savings when caching is combined with other features, such as policy-based configuration, automated prioritization of bandwidth and the ability to re-route traffic across your network.
  5. The Right to Secure Your Applications and Infrastructure. You have a right to the same security on public Internet and 4G LTE connections as on your private WAN through a consistent, layered security approach at all points of the network infrastructure. Look for SD-WAN solutions that provide policy-based security leveraging advanced threat defense such as VPN, firewall, intrusion detection, network segmentation and strong cryptography.
  6. The Right to Use Third Party Applications and Services. No one vendor can provide all the applications, features and services you need to make the most of your software defined network. Rather than being limited to what a single vendor offers, look for solutions whose open APIs allow IT and technology partners to develop applications that improve how you operate, manage, enhance and secure your SD-WAN infrastructure.
  7. The Right to Embrace the Internet of Things. Getting maximum benefit from the Internet of Things (IoT) requires analyzing and acting on the data gathered from IoT devices at the edge of the network. To support IoT applications that require real-time insight into the network look for SD-WAN solutions that support automated traffic management and cost-effective servers and network devices at branch offices and remote locations.
  8. The Right to a Scalable Architecture. You have the right to automated and efficient provisioning of business applications across your network using centralized policies for application performance, security and monitoring. Take advantage of SD-WAN solutions built on a common, open architecture that can scale across your branch, data center, cloud and campus.
  9. The Right to Flexible Deployment Models. Across the IT industry, cloud-based delivery of IT infrastructure, development platforms and applications has reduced costs and made it easier for businesses to meet changing priorities. Look for SD- WAN solutions that give you the freedom to be deployed on your premises or consumed as-a-service from your managed service provider. This "as-a-service" model not only frees your staff for more strategic work, but helps you scale your WAN as your business grows.
  10. The Right to a Return on Your Investment. The technology and business worlds are changing far too quickly, and your IT budget is under too much pressure, to do a "forklift" upgrade of your network infrastructure whenever you need more performance or security. Look for SD-WAN solutions that combine flexible consumption models with physical and virtual form factors and the ability to port software across platforms. This gives you the freedom to purchase only the software you need when you need it, and to protect your software investment as your hardware infrastructure changes.

Which of these rights resonate with you? Share your thoughts below.

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