Software-Defined WAN Dismantles the Traditional Wide Area Networking Market

Mukhtiar Shaikh, CTO CloudGenix 

I am really excited about donning the title of Chief Technology Officer at CloudGenix.  We have had an amazing journey this past year. CloudGenix has grown explosively in 2017: by a whopping 300%+, winning some of the biggest customers in Fortune 500 across multiple verticals, with a 90%+ win rate against Gen-1 SDWAN vendors (the “Goliaths”).  Many retailers with thousands of locations, manufacturers with global footprint, banks that form the financial backbone of the country have deployed CloudGenix for their WAN.

Being Chief Architect over the past 3+ years has been a rewarding experience. Every day presents an amazing opportunity to work with my talented colleagues and very smart customers to design solutions to tackle substantial challenge.

And I am even more excited about what comes next. Application-defined and software-defined networking is fundamentally transforming the traditional WAN market by driving material, measurable value for customers. CloudGenix is leading this charge with a platform that is radically different.

Let me share a few thoughts about the key drivers shaping our future.

There is a growing recognition that traditional networking no longer works for the “cloud first” world and packet-level routing is unable to provide agility in an application-defined world.

Application-driven networking solves both of these issues.

CloudGenix has always recognized that applications are amongst the most important technology assets a company has.  Just Identifying an application merely by its name may sound cool but is simply not enough to know what its SLA requirements are. It’s like saying a “truck” is allowed to go on a road and not know how long, tall or heavy the truck is and whether it will be able to pass under a 12.5 feet overpass or cross a bridge which can handle loads up to 10 tons or go through a street 8 feet wide. At CloudGenix we place a substantial amount of emphasis on understanding applications and their performance behavior at a very deep level, whether it is CRM, ERP, database, client/server, off-the-shelf, or homegrown.

The focus of any SD-WAN solution should be on delivering applications effectively to remote offices whether the application is hosted on-premises in a datacenter, in the cloud, or from a SaaS provider. For effective application delivery, the solution must guarantee the best user experience and should be agnostic to the underlying transport while adapting to changing network conditions and application SLA requirements.

CloudGenix has powerful embedded application identification capabilities that look beyond simple packet details (like IP addresses and ports) and examines actual application and sub-application transactions. As soon as a new application is identified and “fingerprinted” the new learning propagates throughout the network – there is no delay in deploying application policies for performance, security, and compliance to remote sites. All these benefits exist regardless of where the application is deployed and whether it is off-the-shelf or home-grown.

Traditional Gen-1 SD-WAN products from legacy networking and data center vendors are architecturally limited as they are packet-routed layer 3 devices without application specific awareness. This means they can help with a broadband migration (while forcing carrier dependencies) but not much else. That’s the reason they were unable to move the market beyond a 5% adoption rate.

CloudGenix delivers true application networking, understanding not only the network metrics of Gen1 SD-WAN products, but also the applications themselves. Instead of relying on overlay tools and synthetic metrics, CloudGenix directly measures application performance based on application metrics such as transaction time, server response time, transaction error rate, L3/L7 reachability and media CODECs, to namea  few. Coupled together with networking metrics, we allow for more fine-grained traffic engineering policy definition and enforcement based on how the apps are actually performing – not just how the WAN is performing.

We call this the “AppFabric” – it’s a top-down view that centers around user application experience rather than packets.  Instead of defining policies based on, for example, all HTTP “port 80” or HTTPS “port 443” traffic, AppFabric allows network administrators to create policies for actual applications like Google Docs, Dropbox, or Microsoft Lync, and even sub-apps, and ensure the best user experience possible.  It’s the second generation of SD-WAN (Gen2) which is crucial for any customer that wants to make sure that they have a cloud-ready strategy.

All this yields a series of tangible benefits:

  • integration of any transport,
  • confident adoption of any app deployed anywhere,
  • instant visibility into application metrics,
  • managed by policies relevant to your business – performance, security, and compliance

With this, we start to see characteristics of tomorrow’s network, today:

  • Self-healing
  • Application-defined
  • Business policies instead of an antiquated CLI
  • Cloud-delivered and integrated, no bolt on products required

And of course all of this with a strong focus on security. CloudGenix complements and supplements the existing security environment and protocols by providing the ability to centrally define, monitor, and enforce network policies. While architecturally hardened, application level zone-based firewall further augments the security posture of the Cloudgenix remote office, we also have a strong integration with cloud security solutions from vendors like Palo Alto Networks and Symantec to ensure a consistent security perimeter for all sites.

Let me share a personal secret. What thrills me the most is the opportunity to shape this space for the future.

This space intersects with data science, machine learning, and AI. Think of self-driving cars and how those same principles apply to networking to create self-healing and self-governing networks. With legacy solutions, there is massive manual intervention in the network to keep it operating. With solutions like CloudGenix, the network will be able to learn based on past cost and performance data and then react automatically to emergent situations. CloudGenix is heavily invested in this space.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is another interesting play albeit in its early stages. Network connectivity for millions of embedded devices at thousands of remote retail locations is a use case model CloudGenix is actively engaged with.

We are on an exciting journey. I would like to thank all our customers who have joined us in the journey and all my colleagues who have made this journey possible. Others who are still watching from the sidelines, hop onboard!

Let’s have fun, building the networking of the future, together.