SD-WAN as a Service: Just Give Me an Ethernet Handoff

SD-WAN as a Service is coming to the marketplace as something to be be consumed, not owned. IT decision makers just want an ethernet handoff, and a managed WAN is already a common professional service, so for the typical IT manager, the case for SD-WAN as a Service is ease of use and cost savings. Very little else.

A managed WAN is not new whatsoever. For years organizations have outsourced their WAN to regional VARs or to service providers directly. SD-WAN as a Service isn’t changing this paradigm at all. Instead, it uses new technology on the back-end in order to provide the same service but at broadband price points.

TELoIP has been around for about 13 years and recognizes that technology is changing in response to these buying habits. At his presentation at Networking Field Day 15, Pat Saavedra, founder and CTO, explains that everything is becoming a service, so for him the goal is to virtualize networking and offer the WAN as a service.

Rather than utilize expensive MPLS or private fiber, TELoIP’s SD-WAN infrastructure operates on 100% public internet with virtual machines in data centers across North America. Keep in mind that in their SD-WAN cloud they use only public internet and not their own private fiber. Pat explained this ensures carrier diversity and independence, and he elaborated that in order to truly gain the power of the internet, you need diverse carriers with multiple connections.

They utilize intelligent selection of public pathways to provide the same performance we expect from private fiber or expensive MPLS but at broadband price points. To that end, they’ve built their infrastructure of virtual machines using a VxLAN control plane to allow for point-to-mulitpoint over unicast (public internet).

This means the WAN that we consume as a service, fully managed by TELoIP and resold by channel partners, is not a physical infrastructure but an overlay of the public internet. Just get your traffic to one of their points of presence as cheaply as possible, and they’ll take it from there.

This is where the rubber meets the road, because I’m aware of one other vendor in particular that offers a similar delivery model but built on a private, Layer 2 backhaul infrastructure. It’s critical that SD-WAN as a Service be comparable to MPLS or private fiber but at cheap broadband prices, otherwise this is a hard sell. VxLAN isn’t Layer 2, but it does provide many Layer 2 features with the ability to scale.

I also see how this allows for granular policy control, but as of today traffic is categorized using only 5-tuple mechanisms, or in other words, the source IP, source port, destination IP, destination port, and the Layer 4 protocol in use. Pat commented that Layer 7 is on the way, which is encouraging to hear.

Adding a layer of abstraction over public internet is what drives cost down, but it better deliver the goods. And SD-WAN as a Service sounds great, but it needs to be a completely transparent service just like the old VPLS contracts we used to have.

I believe that this is the selling point of SD-WAN as a Service. Generally speaking, an enterprise doesn’t care what’s going on after their traffic leaves the campus so long as it’s wrapped in SLAs. From experience, I know the thought process goes something like this:

  1. SD-WAN vendor provides an ethernet handoff.
  2. I point all my traffic to an SD-WAN device.
  3. Cancel all my expensive MPLS contracts.
  4. Trust my SD-WAN vendor.

Very few decision makers other than curious network engineers actually care what happens in the SD-WAN cloud so long as traffic gets prioritized as it should, latency is low, and expensive circuits can be cancelled. They just want an ethernet handoff and an IP address to point to.

TELoIP’s ethernet handoff is a piece of hardware called VINO Edge which sits at the customer branch and provides an overlay for all your links. It performs per-packet aggregation of multiple underlays delivering the full speed of all the connections combined.

The traffic then makes its way to the PoP and terminates at a VINO controller, a virtualized cloud gateway that applies security and performs intelligent per-packet decision-making. Once in the TELoIP cloud, the carrier-grade network of VINO controllers provides the overlay control plane to create an SD-WAN over the public internet.

I got confused here. Several times I heard “just get your traffic to one of our PoPs”, but if there’s a VINO Edge device at my perimeter  connecting to a VINO Controller using a TELoIP proprietary protocol, isn’t getting my traffic to the PoP part of the managed service? What am I doing other than pointing to the VINO Edge as my gateway and maybe advertising some prefixes? Maybe I misunderstood something, but for me that’s a question that needs clarification.

TELoIP has multiple PoPs in North America, but I don’t know what the plan is for a global deployment. I hope it’s on the roadmap because that’s a limiting factor from a service delivery perspective.

TELoIP sells their service through partners who often rebrand it and mix their services with the TELoIP technology. This made a couple of my colleagues a little uncomfortable, but it didn’t bother me. Many organizations buy a Cisco solution and have some VAR install and manage it for them. This is the same thing, and many IT managers don’t care. They just want a simple ethernet handoff and an IP address to point to with the warm fuzzies of MPLS quality and the price point of broadband. Even better, this also means they don’t need to hire additional and expensive engineering staff.

SD-WAN technology isn’t something most IT decision makers care about in and of itself just like they don’t care about how labels work in MPLS. What makes it compelling is the MPLS quality at a broadband price point. SD-WAN as a Service then takes the ownership element out and delivers the WAN as something to be consumed, not owned. This offloads engineering and management and reduces cost, but it requires a lot of trust in an SD-WAN provider.

Be sure to watch the TELoIP presentation from Networking Field Day 15 either on YouTube or on the Tech Field Day website, and stay tuned for more of my ramblings about this technology and its relevance to real-world business.

 

Disclaimer: Gelstalt IT, the organizers of Networking Field Day, provides travel and expenses for me to attend Networking Field Day. I do not receive cash compensation as a delegate. Also, I do not receive compensation for writing about or promoting Networking Field Day.

 

 

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