Comparing Open vCPE/SD-WAN And Closed, Proprietary Solutions

In my previous post, “Is Networking Becoming Cool Again?”, I covered the future of Cloud Orchestration in the context of the networking virtualization market.

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SD-WAN and vCPE/uCPE are currently the hottest trend in this market, and the recent acquisitions of Viptela by Cisco for $610M and as well as Velocloud by VMware, at an estimated value of $1.4B, are definitely pointing towards the network virtualization market becoming very hot!

I also wrote about what I believe the next evolution, from the current vCPE/SD-WAN solutions going forward to how new open source projects such as ONAP and the move to edge computing will affect this market.

In this post, I will cover the challenges of a fully closed, proprietary vCPE/SD-WAN solution, the advantages of an open framework to enable vCPE/SD-WAN, and how it is possible to combine the two to address lock-in concerns.

Let’s start by covering the issues with the current solutions.

Challenges with existing SD-WAN/vCPE solutions

Many of the current SD-WAN and vCPE/uCPE solutions are fairly closed and proprietary. They therefore come with a price, namely vendor lock-in, as well as a fairly strong limitation on the degree of flexibility that you could expect from the solution. Let’s look at three specific cases to get a better understanding of these limitations.

Supporting new network services

Many CPE boxes were originally built to run a specific network service by a specific vendor. The natural evolution in this market is to look toward a Universal CPE (uCPE) in which the same device is used to manage many network services from different vendors.

It is difficult to see how you can support multiple network services delivered by different vendors on a single, proprietary uCPE device and management platform. A more open solution would be needed.

Connecting with your existing network and CPE

Many SD-WAN solutions were designed as an overlay network which rely on their own CPE devices to manage that network. Therefore, with this approach, you will not be able to leverage your existing set of CPE devices. Moreover, they are not built to integrate into your existing network and environment, so in order to offer this new SD-WAN service you will be required to add a new service on top of your existing one.

Service chaining

In many cases it is not just required to run multiple services on a universal CPE device, but you also need a model that is able to connect them. This concept is known as service chaining.

For example, you may want the flexibility to connect your SD-WAN solution with a firewall from Palo Alto Networks, Check Point, or Fortinet Fortigate through a simple point and click process in which you could also pick the version of each of those products. With a proprietary platform you’re going to be dependent entirely on the SD-WAN vendor delivering this integration and you will have almost no way of controlling that layer.



An Open vCPE/SD-WAN Framework

Cloudify’s Open vCPE/SD-WAN framework is aimed at addressing those challenges and more by providing an open management and orchestration framework that can be used by SD-WAN vendors as well as those looking to build a custom SD-WAN solution.

As noted in our Tenets of Cloudify blog post, we believe in open source, inclusivity, following the “just enough standards” approach such as in the TOSCA modeling language, being application- as well as network-aware, and web scale.

We are also compatible and tightly integrated with industry open orchestration projects such as ONAP, MEF, and others. Moreover, Cloudify comes with a generic configuration plugin that provides a generic way to plug and configure any network device through a variety of protocols such as netconf, YANG, Telnet, XML, etc.

Advantages of the Open Approach

This principled approach and flexibility make Cloudify the right framework to easily on-board a variety of VNF’s into a Universal CPE platform and service chain them. It allows you to plug in your existing CPEs (including physical devices), integrate it with existing BSS/OSS, and leverage all your existing assets alongside any new vCPE and VNF devices.

This approach has the added advantages of enabling you to more gradually upgrade devices and other resources as needed as well as providing you the choice to mix and match commodity CPEs and VNFs with more high-end ones giving you better control of costs.

Using common control plane across all the network services

vCPE and SD-WAN is only one use case. The list of network services is much wider, including technologies such as EPC, IMS, etc as well as future services such as edge and IoT. Using a proprietary solution for these services comes with a high degree of operational complexity, as now each service will need to be managed and maintained in a silo.

This open framework reduces complexity by providing a common management and orchestration substrate that can be used across all network services thereby making interoperability and operation more consistent and significantly simpler.

Compatible with Industry standard

Cloudify, as noted earlier, is based on industry standards where possible, including standard modeling based on TOSCA, network device integration with YANG, etc.

Cloudify is also integrated into the core of ONAP in a way that ensures current and future compatibility with ONAP. You can find more specific details on how Cloudify integrates with ONAP in this whitepaper.

Cloud Native

Cloudify comes with built-in integration with Docker and Kubernetes that gives users the flexibility to support new, cloud native services alongside traditional network services. Cloudify is also used within ONAP OOM project to deploy and manage ONAP services as a group of microservices running on Kubernetes alongside Big Data services, such as DCAE and MariaDB, as well as to manage multiple instances of Kubernetes across different clouds.

Future proof

The networking world has been going through one of the biggest transformations over the past 20 years since the beginning of the internet age. We are now only experiencing the beginning of this transformation and it will be difficult to see where this one will end and what the future will bring.

Cloudify has proven itself to be fairly adaptable and flexible as we evolved from managing traditional network services and physical devices, to cloud native workloads, to now being used to manage more generic edge devices. This flexibility is critical in ensuring the evolvability of your platform to support new use cases and technologies that don’t yet exist.



A framework, not solution

Cloudify is not here to provide an end-to-end vCPE/SD-WAN solution. It is a framework that enables a more open SD-WAN/vCPE solution. This framework approach is also relevant to carriers, enterprises, and system integrators looking to provide a custom solution that can fit into their specific environments.

Who should consider Open vCPE approach?

  1. Network providers that are looking to provide a pre-packaged vCPE/SD-WAN solution that is more open and compatible which makes use of industry standards.
  2. Enterprises that want to control their network as part of their DevOps process and application lifecycle management.
  3. Carriers looking for an open solution and are willing to take more responsibility and control of the stack.
  4. System integrators wanting to provide a custom vCPE/SD-WAN solution which can be used as a common substrate for integrating other network services.

See the demo

Watch the video below to see how Cloudify enabled a telco to deliver their Open vCPE/SD-WAN solution in only three months.

Meet us at Mobile World Congress

Cloudify is proud to be presenting with our fantastic partners Fortinet and Netnumber. Find us at their respective booths at MWC to learn more about our network security and cloud native orchestration capabilities.

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