Nuage, a division within Nokia, has been doing software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) before most of the startups in the field even existed. Originally, Nuage referred to its SDN at the branch as “SD-VPN.”
The branch technology actually sprang from its SDN automation for data centers. Nuage’s network automation in the data center handles virtual workloads, as well as workloads on bare metal and containers.
But Nuage’s Founder and CEO Sunil Khandekar says, “Our vision of SDN was not only in the data center but also in the wide area.”
Many of the startups that are now peddling SD-WAN created their technologies to optimize application performance at the branch, which has historically dealt with bandwidth limitations. They then developed overlay technologies to treat various transport links at the branch as one link, managed by software.
“But what if you turn that on its head?” asks Houman Modarres, Nuage’s head of marketing. “What if your first order problem is you have to be responsive to the needs of more apps wherever they are?”
“Most SD-WAN startups are like-for-like replacements of existing VPNs,” says Khandekar. “But our premise is: the nature of connectivity itself is changing because of the cloud. Don’t just connect branches together and forget about automating the cloud.”
Most SD-WAN solutions can tap into cloud applications in the data center, such as firewalls. But Nuage’s data center automation technology drills deeper than simply service chaining functionalities.
“We, of course, allow for that as well,” says Khandekar, “But for that network function in the data center, there are many instances that might be required. How do you stitch those different versions and make them logically one and [also] different for other customers?”
Rather than approaching SD-WAN from the perspective of branch office transport connections, the company focuses on network automation.
Enterprise SD-WAN customers order the service through a self-service portal. They receive an x86 device, which they then connect to their existing transport connections, whether MPLS or broadband. The device, which is loaded with the Nuage software, dials home and gets automatically configured.
“The operating system we are using as part of our controller is the same one running on our routing platform in Nokia,” says Khandekar “We are using a tried and tested, standardized operating system.”
In addition to the usual WAN services and bandwidth optimization, Nuage’s SD-WAN gives branches access to cloud services. For example, they can securely connect to workloads in a public cloud such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). And the SD-WAN will enforce the same uniform policies for all branches.
Nuage realized from the beginning that customers needed network automation all the way from the branch to the data center. “Still today, we believe that is one of our biggest advantages, we can do both,” says Khandekar.
Customers for Nuage’s SD-WAN include large enterprises that often manage their own WAN. Another strong channel is service providers that, in turn, sell the service to large enterprises.