Verizon Launches SD-WAN Managed Service, Applies Cisco IWAN Intelligence

Ellen MuraskinOne of Verizon‘s first announcements at this week’s CTIA show is the launch of its software-defined WAN managed service. The first Verizon implementation of much-publicized software-defined networking technology, it’s a suite of consultative design, implementation, installation, procurement, monitoring and management services provided by the carrier’s own professional-services teams, and can be contracted by Verizon agents.  

The core driver behind SD-WAN is supporting the cloud‘s monster bandwidth demands without breaking the bank. The core solution idea is superimposing a layer of routing intelligence and a virtual topology over the public Internet, so that chosen applications can take the best overlay route without sacrificing security or speed. (Editor’s Note: Read our in-depth Report on SD-WANs here.) The service combines the IWAN traffic-routing technology of Cisco with Verizon’s global backbone network and its local-access partner providers. Verizon says that it’s “perfectly comfortable” just providing the network design and management pieces, with other providers’ networks.

A hybrid networking solution, the SD-WAN service lets enterprises combine multiple providers over multiple connectivity options, including MPLS and even DSL, cable, and wireless connections for remote offices or stores. It also makes better use of failover lines, routing everyday traffic over standby connections instead of letting them lie fallow until outages occur. It also allows enterprises to offload Internet-bound traffic, freeing private WAN services for mission-critical applications.

Routing Applications by Real-Time Traffic Conditions, Price and Priority – Over Public or Private IP

“The SD-WAN solution makes it possible to link the requirements of an application to the type of connection you use at a site,” said Shawn Hakl, Verizon’s VP of enterprise networking. “So say, you’re going out to SAP or Oracle Financials with mission-critical transactions. You can have that traverse your private IP network. But if you’ve got customers or employees on guest Wi-Fi streaming Netflix on a lunch hour, you want to get that broken out to the Internet, cheaply and quickly. This technology makes it much easier to link the performance costs and security tradeoffs to the application, versus the more traditional model, where your experience of the network was more determined by your location.” Packets can also be tagged, allowing for QoS.

Cisco‘s IWAN technology now runs on its ISR G2 and 4K routers and is planned to run on its cloud services virtual router. As Jason Rolleston, Cisco’s senior director of product management, enterprise networking, explains it, IWAN moves network intelligence …

… closer to the user at the network edge and then moves it up to a software layer, which makes it easier to display and use.

Cisco’s Rolleston and Verizon’s Hakl say that the IWAN solution is agnostic to customer transport protocol, although the router stack itself is under Cisco’s specific configuration and is integrated to work with Verizon’s network management tools. It accommodates network segmentation, using the characteristics of the underlying transport such as MPLS, or by encapsulating application traffic and routing it on a dedicated path.

Verizon starts customers’ network-migration process by helping them inventory their applications and map them to the sophisticated routing policies enabled by IWAN. Policies can be triggered by application, by performance, or priority. Policies also specify whether an application fails over to wireless, or simple broadband, or stops altogether. Of course, such changes can be made manually as well.

Verizon assumes the monitoring and management piece across the entire SD-WAN deployment life cycle, and across the multiple providers that it can procure – essential in multinational deployments. It also takes on deployment of the Cisco routers, design and implementation, network assessment and strategy.

Hakl says that going into the first quarter of 2016, a fuller channel partner “enablement” plan  will be released, to extend sales of this managed service beyond Verizon’s direct salesforce and Verizon agents. 

Hakl also described the managed SD-WAN as the first step of Verizon’s broader SDN strategy. The stage announced Sept. 8 “creates the point-to-point networking and then raises the intelligence layer in the pipe, essentially a software layer.” The SDN road map for the rest of 2015 and 2016 includes new virtual functions to replace physical, dedicated appliances. Verizon has publicly shared its plans for virtual firewalls, load balancing, deep-packet inspection, WAN acceleration and integrated trunking control. Until those releases, Verizon’s full spectrum of existing security and optimization solutions can be applied to the SD-WAN offering.

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