Glue Networks has been best known as a small partner of Cisco’s. But earlier this month, the company revealed what it’s really been working on: a platform for automating configuration of an enterprise WAN, especially in the case of a multivendor network.
It’s taken three-and-a-half years — “longer than we originally envisioned,” CEO Jeff Gray says. But the company was finally able to launch a crucial new element, the Dynamic Network Development Kit (NDK), last month, showing it off at the Open Networking User Group (ONUG) conference in Mountain View, Calif.
Glue’s flagship product, Gluware (which now includes the NDK), lets users create configuration models based on policy rules, and it automatically adapts to changes in the network. “I’m not a huge fan of the term middleware, but people have been calling us SDN middleware,” says Gray.
But so far, Gluware has been a tool only for the Intelligent WAN (IWAN), Cisco‘s entry in the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) category. Cisco resells Gluware, and Cisco also invested in Sacramento, Calif.-based Glue back in 2013, so it’s been easy to associate Glue with Cisco.
Glue has been promising multivendor support, though, and that’s finally coming true with the NDK. In fact, the “development kit” part of the name refers to users’ ability to add configuration for new networking features — usually referring to features created by the vendors but not yet available in Gluware.
Glue’s configuration task involves selecting features on network equipment. Each vendor has its own set of features, and each enterprise wants a particular permutation of those features.
Cisco already has a multivendor configuration tool, thanks to the acquisition of Tail-f. But Tail-f was groomed for service providers. Its operation involves developing models that can be applied uniformly across various operators’ networks.
By contrast, enterprises want customization.
“Every single enterprise is different. Every one is a snowflake. So, the question is: How do you automate something that’s different every time?” Gray says. “Most enterprises that we work for are not looking for a heavyweight service provider platform.”
Glue’s Sticking Points
Just because Glue is now “multivendor” doesn’t mean it can magically work with every product in the world. Glue has to make its software work with each vendor’s gear, one by one. Now that the dynamic NDK is out, Glue hopes to add a new vendor roughly every three weeks.
The supported list so far includes Riverbed’s WAN optimization, Palo Alto Networks’ firewalls, A10’s load balancer, and Fortinet’s security appliances. On the to-do list are Cisco’s Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and F5.
Glue also can’t force vendors to interoperate with each other; it couldn’t knit two SD-WANs into one big SD-WAN, for instance.
But in the cases of equipment that does interoperate, Gluware can configure an entire chain, treating the multiple vendors’ products as one workflow. An example would be configuring a switch, a router, and a WAN optimization element together as a unit. The idea resembles the service chaining of network functions virtualization (NFV) or the concept of microservices.
Finally, Glue is hoping to adapt Gluware to other types of uses. SD-WAN was just a starting point; a logical next step would be the Internet of Things (IoT), Gray says.
Photo by bradleypjohnson on Flickr. CC2.0 license. Photo has been cropped.