New platform supports SD-WAN as a virtual network function, incorporating automatic service turn-up, embedded cloud and orchestration.

December 1, 2016

4 Min Read
ADVA Makes Anti-Appliance SD-WAN Play

ADVA today is launching a new SD-WAN solution that goes beyond an appliance approach to offer flexibility in adding this hottest of new services at the edge of the network, along with other virtual network functions. (See ADVA Launches Smart WAN for Flexible SD-WANs.)

The Ensemble SmartWAN is intended to be the antidote to appliance-based software-defined wide-area networking gear that grew up in the enterprise space but is now popping up in service provider solutions. It is a software solution, being delivered through a series of enhancements to the Ensemble Connector platform, which enable fast turn-up of SD-WAN services through auto-discovery capabilities on a platform that supports virtual network functions from ADVA Optical Networking and partner companies.

"This is not an SD-WAN offering; we are actually working with a variety of SD-WAN VNF providers, creating a platform that helps SD-WAN be more deployable for operators," says Prayson Pate, CTO, Ensemble Division for ADVA.

Versa Networks and Silver Peak Systems Inc. are two SD-WAN vendors supporting the ADVA Ensemble SmartWAN from the outset but there are many other SD-WAN options that can be deployed on the platform, which is designed to be open and vendor-neutral, he says.

SD-WAN has emerged as a hot service as enterprises look for ways to connect offices using underlying Internet technology in the place of more expensive and less flexible MPLS services. When service providers first moved into the space to add this to their portfolios, they did so using enterprise appliances and, while multiple companies are now delivering carrier-grade solutions, Pate says that approach is limited and doesn't offer the full value of what an SD-WAN could offer if integrated as part of a broader network functions virtualization approach.

The Ensemble SmartWAN does that, tying together a variety of features that include allowing SD-WANs to interact with MPLS-VPNs natively without using a customer edge router in between, and provides MPLS peering and tunnels, which would normally require a router, through the use of what ADVA calls embedded cloud using carrier-class OpenStack. Overall, that gives network operators flexibility in how they meet enterprise needs in an affordable efficient package, Pate says.

"One of the things we enable with Connector is efficiency and high-performance and that enables the business case running on lost-cost, low-end [Intel] Atom hardware or [Intel] Xeon minimizing the number of cores," he comments. "Connector has been around for a while in terms of a virtualization platform with Carrier Ethernet support and what we are adding is features to enhance deployability."

That includes secure zero-touch commissioning based on auto-discovery, embedded cloud and Layer 3 networking. Ensemble SmartWAN can also provide the MPLS peering and tunnels of the CE router, eliminating the need for the router altogether. What the Ensemble SmartWAN offers in its auto-discovery process is a solution to the chicken-and-egg issue of how to connect an SD-WAN before networking is established. The service provider would send a white box server out to a customer, with Linux and Ensemble Connector software installed, and provide a code which the user could enter, once the server is powered up and connected to the Internet.

"All of it is done automatically -- any of the VNFs are spun up connected, available for participation in whatever service they are part of including SD-WAN," Pate says.

The Ensemble Orchestrator is part of the solution, helping enabling the discovery process. The last major piece is Ensemble Embedded Cloud, which provides a collocated cloud controller in each remote compute node, based on OpenStack.

ADVA is well-aware of carrier concerns about OpenStack, Pate says and is addressing those by not exposing the OpenStack management and control plane across the open network and limiting the number of compute nodes that are managed by a cloud controller, to address scalability issues.

"We aren't claiming to have solved every issue where OpenStack is concerned," he comments. Instead, ADVA is offering an open for a "embedded cloud" based on OpenStack, that offers consistency across the cloud environment, using internal communications between OpenStack deployed in the cloud and at the premises.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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