Dimension Data’s Internet Solutions (IS) has launched a new wide-area networking technology solution called CloudWAN, which it believes will fundamentally change the way it services corporate customers in the coming years and also transform the way it does business.
The company said the platform, based on software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) technology, will reduce complexity in enterprise network environments by delivering network functions as a virtualised service.
The platform uses software-defined networking and “network function virtualisation” to link public and private cloud computing environments into an “elastic” virtual network, IS said.
The new platform turns an enterprise network into a “programmable entity for traditional network device deployment and upgrades, simplifying management and automating control of the network”.
IS MD Saki Missaikos said the company has invested tens of millions of rand in the CloudWAN platform, and will continue to invest in it as it moves its corporate clients across from older technologies, including MPLS, or multiprotocol label switching — a common way of carrying data across high-performance networks.
The platform, which was built in Silicon Valley by NTT i3, a subsidiary of Dimension Data parent Nippon Telegraph & Telephone, was created with open standards in mind, Missaikos said.
“The whole software-defined networking space is still very new and very young,” he said. It will require a significant shift in the way that IS does business. Already, it has had to start shifting from a network engineering skillset to one that embraces software engineering skills.
In essence, IS is providing networking as a service, much like companies like Microsoft and Adobe provide software as a service. Missaikos said it represents a significant shift in approach for IS.
“We are giving clients a lot more flexibility, the ability to change their technology requirements on the fly as their business requirements change,” he said.
“We’re giving CIOs a lot more visibility [into the network]and the ability to self-service, which in the past we were reluctant to [offer them]. In effect, we are taking our back-office and giving it to our clients,” he said. “That presents an element of vulnerability [for us], but if we don’t do it we will be left behind. This is as big as the shift to MPLS was 15 years ago.”
He said it could take a decade to migrate IS’s corporate clients to CloudWAN, and he emphasised that the company is not killing off its MPLS offering. “We will have a hybrid model for five to 10 years, but eventually it will be at the core of what we are doing.”
IS said that by delivering cloud-based, centralised network provision and management, CloudWAN overcomes the biggest drawbacks of legacy network technologies.
Greg Montjoie, executive head for SDN and Internet at IS, said companies usually invest in private network services using MPLS. But data traffic and network complexity between business sites is increasingly substantial.
“As multitudes of devices in numerous sites are added to an enterprise WAN, existing network technologies are increasingly restrictive, prohibitively expensive and can no longer guarantee quick and reliable network connections,” Montjoie said.
Enterprise WANs today require network hardware such as hubs, routers, switches, proxy servers and firewalls, as well as network architects and engineers to install, then connect, configure and test the hardware manually.
“CloudWAN turns an enterprise network into a programmable entity for traditional network device deployment and upgrades, simplifying management and automating control of the network,” IS said.
Said Montjoie: “Software-defined networking is leading to open communication protocols and application programming interfaces that are device-agnostic but still offer the same security, reliability and resiliency of vendor-proprietary hardware and appliances. This will lead to significant cost-savings for enterprises as they scale their networks.”
He explained that when an additional site such as a new warehouse, branch or outlet needs to be added to an enterprise network, the configurations and appropriate application rule sets are instantly deployed to that site. The configuration profiles are pre-set according to the client’s grouping structure.
“Traditional networks are bottlenecks that hamper business growth, but we’re well on the way to changing that,” said Montjoie. “I anticipate that software-defined networking will disrupt business ICT as dramatically as the cloud did.” — © 2017 NewsCentral Media