Software-Defined Branch Growth Picks Up Pace

The software-defined networking (SDN) movement continues to expand, with software-defined branches being among the latest offshoots of the new-age networking approach.

A case in point is the recent cloud-managed SD-Branch solution from Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

Announced a few weeks ago, the Aruba SD-Branch, like similar offerings, is an expansion of the SD-WAN approach, incorporating new elements such as routing, security, wireless and so on. As a Quora question explains, "Over time, SD-WAN will provide enhanced support for IoT, mobility -- like Wi-Fi and 5G -- and evolve toward the concept of the software-defined branch."

Versa Networks was an early entrant into the field, last December announcing an update to its Cloud IP Platform that extended its SD-Branch capabilities with the addition of voice and video functionality.

Versa's SD Branch is an enterprise offering that reportedly simplifies and optimizes the cost of branch and wide-area networks (WANs) via the consolidation of multiple functions like routing, SD-WAN, firewall, UTM and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) optimization.

Aruba, meanwhile, says its SD-Branch integrates security and lets enterprises manage SD-WAN, WLAN, LAN and unified policy scaling up to thousands of sites in the cloud, providing a new approach to help organizations handle evolving cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and mobility requirements.

"The integration of new cloud-managed SD-WAN, wired and wireless networking solutions, secured with context-based policy enforcement, significantly advances IT professionals’ ability to deliver improved network availability and application performance, while dramatically reducing management time and operational and capital expenditures," the company said.

Lee Doyle, principal analyst at Doyle Research, earlier this year forecasted the SD-Branch market would reach $3 billion by 2022.

"SD-Branch is defined as having SD-WAN, routing, network security, and LAN/Wi-Fi functions all in one platform with integrated, centralized management," Doyle said in a Network World article. "Software-based networking technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), and network functions virtualization (NFV) have abstracted network intelligence from the integrated network appliance (aka black box). The concept of the SD-Branch is to leverage network virtualization to run several discrete functions on a single platform. Advances in silicon from Intel, ARM, and Broadcom enable the network horsepower to run routing, SD-WAN, network security, and Wi-Fi functionality on one hardware platform."

Industry heavyweight Verizon Business Markets has also gotten in on the SD-Branch movement, leveraging Versa's offering as part of its Software Defined Secure Branch solution for businesses with multiple locations, state and local governments, and educational institutions, announced last month.

Wholesale Carrier Services (WCS), a global managed communications service provider, also partnered with Versa for its networkWCS service. "WCS can now deliver a complete secure Software-Defined Branch (SD-Branch) solution that integrates SD-WAN and SD-Security, thus simplifying the IT experience while improving the end-user experience for cloud and SaaS applications," the company said.

Doyle, in another Network World article, said that in addition to providing operational agility and reducing hardware costs, SD-Branch benefits include:

  • Decreased cost of support and maintenance contracts because fewer vendors will be involved.
  • The ability to right-size hardware requirements for each branch thanks to software virtualization.
  • A smaller hardware footprint, which is ideal for space-constrained branches.
  • Network performance scalability. As network requirements change, the performance of any function can be tuned up or down by changing processor allocation or adding hardware resources.
  • Lower power consumption because one power-efficient platform replaces many appliances.

With the SD-Branch movement picking up steam with the promise of multiple benefits, watch this space for further developments.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.


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