How DevOps Networking Will Change SD-WAN Services
How DevOps Networking Will Change SD-WAN Services
See how DevOps can be applied to networks to remove the complexity of configuring, managing, and delivering the SD-WAN.
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IT managers have a long and turbulent relationship with their carriers. I’ve seen it personally in building out large-scale networks, but I’m not alone. In a review of 3,500 WAN-related client inquiries and more than 500 service provider contracts, Gartner analysts concluded what most of us who purchase networking services have long known: Enterprises are dissatisfied with large incumbent network service providers.
This relationship becomes even more pertinent as IT professionals reevaluate their wide area network architectures. Software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) are the way forward for enterprise networking, and SD-WAN services promise to remove the complexity of configuring, managing, and delivering the SD-WAN.
At the same time, SD-WAN services are being delivered by the same carriers who sold us MPLS services. How can IT professionals ensure they receive a better experience with SD-WAN services than with MPLS services?
The answer is to adopt DevOps networking.
SD-WAN: DevOps for the Infrastructure
DevOps typifies the lean operation that has been changing IT. Self-service, agility, and low cost — those factors are revolutionizing how we build, deploy, and deliver compute, storage, and applications. By collapsing the stack, and by automating and monitoring all phases of software development, DevOps leads to faster software development, more releases, and better reliability.
Cloud services express DevOps thinking within the world of datacenters and software. Want a new test or production environment? Spec it, activate a virtual datacenter, load up your application, and you’re done. Changing configurations is a matter of tweaking a few settings on a management portal. Gone are the days of opening support tickets and waiting days for the provider to make a minor change. Overprovisioning? A thing of the past. The cloud's elasticity allows businesses to pay for only what they need.
DevOps thinking, though, has been noticeably absent from carrier-delivered, infrastructure services. Rigidity typifies MPLS services. They only connect physical locations, often requiring weeks, if not months, to install new circuits. Even slight configuration changes require opening trouble tickets, introducing hours if not days of delay. Circuit reprovisioning takes far too long, forcing companies to overspend for overprovisioned circuits to accommodate traffic bursts and changing conditions.
None of that is acceptable for today's businesses. Cloud datacenters, cloud apps, and mobile users are as typical as traditional offices, datacenters, and factories. To have an infrastructure service that only connects some of those elements is insufficient. Moreover, each of those "nodes" — the users, office, a cloud resource — bring unique requirements for costs, uptime, and performance.
The infrastructure must be malleable enough to accommodate those constraints. An intelligent, software-layer, such as SD-WAN, can change the rigid and slow networking models of the past — in the broadest sense it is DevOps meets networking. Zero-touch provisioning instantly connects locations. Routing algorithms accommodate application requirements and adapt to real-time link conditions. The ability to connect any data services into the SD-WAN gives organization incredible flexibility.
What and How of DevOps Thinking
Secure SD-WAN services seem to go a step further by offloading the configuration, architecture, and delivery of SD-WAN onto a seasoned provider. But taking advantage of SD-WAN requires services providers to have DevOps thinking in their organizations. After all, what good is SD-WAN agility if the organization delivering the SD-WAN service still takes days to respond to tickets and overcharges for its services?
The carriers would seem to have the “what” to conquer the new WAN. They point to their infrastructure and years of experience packaging third-party technologies into managed services. It's exactly what they're doing with carrier-managed SD-WAN, which integrates third-party SD-WAN and security appliances.
However, the real question is, do they have the “how” — the DNA and corporate culture to deliver on the self-service, agility, and speed of DevOps networking. Rapid upgrades and new features become difficult with individual, third-party appliances. The same is true for problem resolution.
The reality is that there’s little incentive for carriers to change. High-margin, network-managed services continue to primarily drive carrier revenue. SD-WAN, with its orientation towards simplicity, is a threat to that revenue stream. Expecting carriers to overhaul their operations to accommodate the agility of SD-WAN is a double mistake. Like all companies, carriers must protect their businesses.
Rise of the Uncarrier
If carriers aren't the answer, then what is? The Uncarrier. Like Amazon and Salesforce, Uncarriers are purpose-built, cloud-centric service providers made to deliver networking and security services. Their core values remain centered around self-service, agility, and cost.
The Uncarrier operates lean, charging customers affordable prices for what were once expensive services.
The Uncarrier is software-centric — not integration-centric. It can build the platform customers need and rapidly iterate to evolve and adapt to new requirements.
With its native-cloud orientation, the Uncarrier’s architecture is inherently multitenant, scalable by design, and highly elastic — all of which translates into affordability. Its values are the capabilities enterprises need — a global, software-defined network fabric with built-in cloud and mobile support, and integrated network security.
Self-service, agility, and low costs have conquered all areas of IT. Now is the time for them to transform networking infrastructure services. But delivering on those changes requires more than just a technological change. It requires providers to adopt DevOps-cloud thinking: lean operations, responsive customer support, and revenue from selling targeted software components — not integration services. Carriers are weak candidates for leading that revolution; cloud networking providers are what's needed. Welcome to the era of the Uncarrier.
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