Open Network Users Group: WAN SDN a Major Theme

Mike Fratto
Mike Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • ONUG is a user-led networking conference chock-full of good content for enterprise IT.
  •  The main theme was WAN SDN, where enterprises try to make better use of their WAN pipes.

The Open Network User Group (ONUG) is a really good show for network administrators from enterprises of all sizes to learn from their peers at larger enterprises. ONUG’s focus is on user-to-user interaction, and in that respect, the majority of the talks, in particular the morning sessions, were given or led by senior IT and network professionals and reflected issues that are faced across a spectrum of enterprises.

A major theme of the event was WAN software-defined networking (SDN), specifically using SDN to define and manage the WAN. WAN SDN is taking center stage as enterprises reach a point in their server virtualization strategies where they can start to use virtualization across data centers efficiently for disaster recovery or follow-the-sun operations. The other focus of WAN SDN was in remote office/remote location support. But, why SDN? Simple, service providers are notoriously slow in bringing up new services or making changes, and once the request is made, the process is opaque to the customer, making problem resolution difficult. Enterprises want to control their destiny.

When IT wants to move workloads from one DC to another, moving the VM is a relatively simple act of moving the VM or, better, pre-positioning the VM in the remote site and then directing traffic to it. However, dragging the terabytes of storage the workload relies on is a different matter. Storage replication technologies and even storage architectures such as object storage, RDBMS sharing, and big data repositories can be optimized within the data center, but optimizing across the wide area is still a struggle because of the data volume involved and the extremely low latencies required. Enterprises definitely do not want to hairpin storage traffic over the WAN.

The other aspect of WAN SDN raised was the support of remote and branch offices for everything from optimizing data flows at the branch, using zero-touch installations so that equipment could be installed without sending a technician onsite, and implementing policies for numerous user groups at remote sites. I am always surprised to hear that many companies still rely on costly leased lines until I remember that stodgy old T1 is considered more reliable than that newfangled broadband everyone is talking about. However, the costs for digital circuits have remained high, while broadband is dropping. Enterprises are looking either to replace their T1s with broadband or to use two broadband circuits to replace a single T1. In either case, intelligent routing decisions independent of the carriers based on latency and bandwidth need to be made in real time to ensure uptime and performance. In these respects, enterprises are looking more like service providers.

SDN as a strategy has uses far beyond the data center and perhaps it’s these more mundane scenarios that will carry the day.

What do you think?

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