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Codifying the Network

As the traditional hub-and-spoke enterprise network struggles to keep pace with cloud-based application delivery and mobile computing, the idea of a software-defined WAN is gaining traction. Agility is the driver, as discussed recently on No Jitter and in an Enterprise Connect webinar, "Can Your Network Handle the Real-time and Cloud Traffic Explosion?" (register now to view on demand).

As Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research, explained during the webinar, each branch office on a software-defined WAN (SD WAN) gets its own Internet connection. This setup facilitates more efficient delivery of cloud-based applications versus traditional enterprise WAN architecture that first forces all traffic through a central site, then through an MPLS or other private IP network, and then back down that same pipe for delivery out to the WAN.

Among the companies enabling enterprises to build SD WANs are Ipanema Technologies (now InfoVista), Silver Peak, VeloCloud, and Virtela. But committing to and then building an SD WAN is only half the story -- and Glue Networks intends to complete the picture, Jeff Gray, CEO of the SD WAN orchestration platform provider, told me in a recent interview.

As network vendors open their APIs and make the network programmable, a common concern among network engineers is that they now have to become software programmers. But that's not the case, Gray said. Enter Gluware 2.0, a customizable SD-WAN orchestration platform Glue Networks introduced today and will be demonstrating next week at Cisco Live. Gluware 2.0 provides network-aware provisioning and life-cycle management for SD WANs via two components: Gluware Lab and Gluware Control. Now in beta, it will be generally available later this summer.

Gluware 2.0 is all about giving DevOps functionality to network engineers -- without forcing them to become software programmers. "The unicorn in the room is DevOps functionality, and the question is, 'How do you transition from manual builds to an agile DevOps process for enterprise networking?'" The answer, Gray said, is to productize rapid development (Gluware Lab) and ease management (Gluware Control). (For more on the role of DevOps in communication, read a previous No Jitter post, "Vertical Convergence.")

Specifically, Gluware 2.0 eliminates manual network design, provides adaptable network management capabilities, and enables network engineers to apply new policies at scale. The goal is to simplify network complexity, reduce network life-cycle costs, and boost network agility, Gray said. It lets network engineers control network evolution via gradual migration of existing infrastructure. "They can deploy and build up a network feature by feature rather than building a golden configuration and then dealing with wild cards -- that's load and pray," Gray said.

The Gluware 2.0 platform lets network engineers abstract network features into building blocks, wrapped in code, for testing and rapid deployment. It integrates with leading architectures, including Cisco's Intelligent WAN, and works with REST APIs for third-party monitoring, visualization, and control.

In the initial Gluware iteration, Glue Networks worked with network engineers to understand their challenges and then created best-practices code for them. "We understand the state of the network, so know that if X event happens, then do Y. We can write policies to push the network back to desired state," Gray said. But why not empower network engineers to do that on their own? That's what Gluware 2.0 does, he said.

"We are transforming the network into code."

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