Path probing. Intelligent path selection. Application-aware routing. The aggregation of divergent internet links. Those are the things we talked about when SD-WAN was still an emerging technology, but that’s not the case anymore.
Today, a discussion about SD-WAN is a discussion about cloud connectivity.
As SD-WAN shifts from an emerging technology to a maturing technology, several real-world use cases have emerged, and right at the forefront is how we connect to our public cloud resources and SaaS applications.
I believe most organizations are multi-cloud whether they realize it or not. Even a small organization may send backups to AWS, use Office 365 for productivity software, and rely on Dropbox for Teams for file sharing. To a small law firm with a few dozen attorneys and another few dozen support staff, those cloud resources are all mission critical.
Now scale that to a very large organization that relies on G Suite for productivity tools, Salesforce for the account managers, and routinely moves workloads between their private data centers, colocation facilities, and public cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP.
Cloud connectivity is critical, but when using traditional networking methods, cloud connectivity is hard. Private direct connections to cloud resources are expensive and require specialized engineering skills. Ensuring very high quality connectivity to SaaS applications over the public internet is next to impossible.
This is why the SD-WAN conversation has changed from cost savings and load balancing to making connecting to cloud resources and SaaS applications easier, more secure, and with a better user experience.
CloudGenix is completely focused on cloud connectivity. Yes, branch connectivity, load balancing, and link aggregation are absolutely all there, but the clear vision of CloudGenix is making the connectivity to cloud resources easier, more secure, and with a better performance for the end-user.
CloudGenix operates at layers 3 through 7 to construct a full mesh SD-WAN overlay called AppFabric assembled with Instant On (ION) local SD-WAN routers, the CloudBlades IaaS, and through partnerships with security, SaaS, and colocation providers. The focus is on applications, in particular cloud applications, and not necessarily speeds and feeds.
CloudGenix claims they’re a software company and not a hardware company, but what does that mean?
Packets still have to flow through actual SD-WAN routers, so there’s certainly hardware involved from an operational perspective. That local branch hardware, though, doesn’t need to be expensive, purpose-built, proprietary gear. The CloudGenix software on a branch SD-WAN router acts more like a proxy to various cloud services rather than perform all sorts of significant computational processing. It’s more a point of entry into the service chain.
The CloudGenix ION appliance is built on cheap, off the shelf x86 hardware which means hardware spend is lower than with other vendors. And because there’s nothing incredibly special about the hardware itself, CloudGenix will happily run on your own x86 hardware.
The services we typically need for high quality and secure branch connectivity are offloaded to IaaS providers, whether that be CloudGenix or a CloudGenix partner. What that means is that though we still need to plug our internet connections into a local appliance, the control plane, or in other words the decision-making faculties of AppFabric, as well as all of the security components, live primarily in the cloud and not locally on the box itself.
CloudBlades, the cloud proxy used to negotiate between the local appliances and to both SaaS and IaaS providers, lives in the CloudGenix cloud to provide the link to a variety of advanced services. This includes security features through Palo Alto, Symantec, Check Point, and Zscaler and SaaS providers such as Webex, Zoom, RingCentral, Skype, Splunk, and ServiceNow.
Through partnerships with SaaS providers and with Equinix, traffic destined to a SaaS provider is intelligently steered to the geographically closest point of presence (POP) to provide the best connectivity to the application as possible.
And instead of instantiating a virtual version of a hardware router in AWS or Azure, CloudGenix built their SD-WAN software as cloud-native which provides a much tighter integration with cloud provider resources. In this way, very little is going on at a branch location other than the actual forwarding of packets.
Ultimately, the value is that rather than handing you a static branch-in-a-box appliance, CloudGenix creates an SD-WAN fabric with hooks into a wide array of cloud-based SaaS and IaaS solutions. And that way, their SaaS platform does the service-chaining for you.
That’s why I think it’s fair to argue that CloudGenix is more a SaaS provider than hardware vendor. Everything they do is software-first and built in and for the cloud. CloudGenix clearly understands that cloud has become mission critical, so their approach to SD-WAN is a little different than other SD-WAN solutions.
To learn more, watch the video series from Networking Field Day 22 recorded live in Silicon Valley in February, 2020. There you can hear the CloudGenix story from Kumar Ramachandran, Founder and CEO, Mike Korenbaum, and Aaron Edwards.