Like Cyan‘s Blue Planet software, WAE is about orchestration of the service-provider WAN, provisioning services across switching, routing, and optical transport.
And like Blue Planet, WAE is meant to be multivendor — a trait it shares with MATE, the tool Cisco acquired in 2012 along with startup Cariden. The multivendor aspect has played well with some carriers. Of 120 or so customers for Blue Planet, Cyan claims a couple dozen don’t even use any Cyan hardware.
ESP Hooks Up with MATE
WAE is part of Cisco’s Evolved Services Platform (ESP), that other SDN that’s overshadowed by the Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI). ACI is going to be the star of Cisco Live, and Cisco has pledged that it will spread to the entire portfolio. But ACI is starting in the data center and has shown few concrete signs of spreading to the carrier network. ESP, while it lacks ACI’s policy-based focus, was devices specifically for carrier networks.
Whereas ESP operates across network domains, including compute and storage as well as networking, WAE targets just the WAN. “Think of this as one of the specific subsystems within that orchestration engine,” says Sanjeev Mervana, a Cisco senior director of marketing.
The primary goal with WAE is to automate provisioning in the WAN. Ideally, the network would be able to call up bandwidth on demand, in real time, as well as do automated bandwidth scheduling.
WAE can also work with MATE to provide traffic visibility and some predictive analysis. Cisco claims WAE can anticipate certain traffic changes in real time and can calculate “what-if” scenarios to cover future traffic demand. It’s the kind of feedback loop that vendors have been promising as a benefit of SDN.
True to Cariden’s heritage, WAE and ESP work with multiple vendors’ equipment, using familiar protocols such as Netconf and YANG. (Cyan connects to other vendors’ gear through element adapters, which are pieces of software provided by Cyan and/or its vendor partners.)
Where ESP Differs from ACI
It seems like ESP should eventually be ousted by ACI’s Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC). ACI and the APIC, due to start shipping by the end of June, can provision services just as ESP does, but they do it in a declarative manner, telling the infrastructure what goal to accomplish without specifying how to do it.
But ACI’s first target is the data center and the Nexus line of switches. The rest of the portfolio would need to be infused with policy smarts in order to be controlled by the APIC, and that doesn’t seem like it will happen quickly.
So, for now, ESP and WAE are Cisco’s SDN options for the service-provider network, and they also provide options for the networks that might never migrate to ACI. Cisco does say, vaguely, that ACI and ESP will be able to work together.