Startup CloudGenix is announcing today that it’s raised $9 million to pursue what it’s calling the software-defined enterprise WAN (SDEwan).
The SDEwan concept starts with a setup similar to that of network functions virtualization (NFV), ad fortifies it with other familiar ideas such as policy-driven networking. CloudGenix swears it all adds up to something unique but is holding back on the details its model.
The products are still “a few months away” anyway, says CEO Kumar Ramachandran.
The part that resembles NFV goes like this: CloudGenix takes the functions and services that would normally run in customer premises equipment (CPE) — functions such as perimeter firewalls, for instance — and places them, in virtualized form, in the enterprise’s hybrid cloud. It leaves the enterprise with a lean CPE device and a lot more flexibility in connecting to services.
NFV offers a similar picture. Many believe NFV makes the most sense as a cloud-based technology, with these virtualized network functions (VNFs) being hosted by various cloud providers; that was part of the philosophy behind the CloudNFV initiative.
CloudGenix says it’s doing something beyond NFV, though, calling the result network functions projection. For one thing, CloudGenix’s products would automate the choices between VPNs, Internet connections, and LTE, selecting the best or most proper type of WAN transport to reach functions housed in different sections of a hybrid cloud. You might call it a bring-your-own-WAN approach.
The strategy there is to take advantage of the disaggregation of the WAN. Just as the data center is giving way to a hybrid cloud that includes multiple choices of public clouds, so are MPLS VPNs sometimes being replaced with plain Internet connections or even LTE, Ramachandran says.
What might be more important is that the SDEwan is policy-driven. CloudGenix is choosing a good time to come out, because policy is suddenly a hot topic. It’s a cornerstone of Cisco‘s Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and the subject of Congress, an OpenStack project that’s recently started making noise.
The mantra behind a policy-based network is that “the data path has to move from being packet [oriented] to being application- and user-based,” as Ramachandran puts it. But CloudGenix isn’t yet explaining how it would make that happen.
Overall, Ramachandran is convinced the potential for improving the WAN is “as big if not bigger than what was happening in the data center.” Somewhere in there, with a dash of policy added, is a construct that’s like NFV but apparently does more. At least, that’s what CloudGenix is promising with the SDEwan. The products aren’t out yet, but the company has a couple of customers — Columbia Sportswear and The Coca-Cola Co. — involved at least to the point of offering press-release quotes.