The self-learning and self-driving network
Silver Peak wants to do for the wide area network (WAN) what VMware did for servers with the virtual machine. Vice President of Product Management, Rolf Muralt said, “We’ve taken some concepts and applied it to the WAN.”
As with VMware which disaggregated hardware boxes from the software, allowing the software to be spread across lots of different hardware boxes, Silver Peak facilitates this for WANs and ties it all back together to one single orchestration layer called Silver Peak Unity Orchestrator.
At end of day, above all the features that WAN technology is supposed to enable, the one huge main feature is to connect business users to their applications.
What Silver Peak’s SD-WAN solution has been demonstrating so far is that they are doing this and with key business objectives in mind – consistent performance, very simple configuration, secure connectivity and lower cost.
Muralt said of Silver Peak’s ability to use any physical transport, “We will take everything you give us and build an enterprise network on top of it.”
Silver Peak EdgeConnect version 8.0 even has a Boost feature, an optional and on-demand function that is a culmination of their ten years of experience offering WAN optimisation.
In the latest 8.1 version however, Boost will cache data of traffic so that apps will perform as though it’s distance from the user has been reduced.
Of course, that isn’t all that Silver Peak EdgeConnect 8.1 has in store for businesses.
Now there is a single software stack to fulfil security, routing and WAN optimisation needs of the business. Muralt opined, “They shouldn’t be separate form factors so as to enable quicker configuration.”
He related the account of a customer, a large US national car service chain which wanted to automate their branches because of the amount of labour involved having to manually configure boxes at each different site.
Because of an ecosystem of complexity that has existed for a very long time, most enterprises would have to have one administrator manually log into each router to input text and do this for each branch in the whole network.
Networking incumbents have benefitted from the fact that networking is complex.
But since the advent of software-defined networking, the tide is about to change and Gartner has even predicted that by 2020, more than 50-percent of WAN edge infrastructure refresh efforts will be based upon SD-WAN instead of traditional routers.
Taking into account there would still be huge install base of legacy networking infrastructure, Silver Peak’s 8.1 software also supports BGP routing protocol, an industry standard that will enable seamless interoperability between SD-WAN and legacy router-centric WAN architectures.
A direct path to the Internet
The biggest breakthrough however could be version 8.1’s Internet breakout feature which Muralt described as the headliner theme for this latest software release.
This particular feature address how SaaS traffic behaves today – traffic flows from the branch to headquarters to cloud and then to the Internet. In other words, all web-bound traffic must be backhauled to behind corporate firewalls first, and this wastes bandwidth, affects application performance and is overall simply inefficient.
Silver Peak’s Internet breakout solution would recognise the applications that can go directly to the Internet and automate the process, bypassing the need to backhaul the traffic. It’s always had to do this before because the applications need to be recognised and authorised first.
Muralt said, “Why not recognise the traffic and break it out? Standard routers can’t do (what we can do) because they can’t recognise apps. If your policy choses to allow your apps to breakout to the Internet we will automate that for you.”
He also said, “Banks are looking at this to offer services like guest WiFi and micro-segment their networks. They just want to drop (the traffic) as soon as possible to the Internet.”
The new release also boast a feature called First-packet iQ that identifies over 10,000 applications and 300 million web domains based on the first packet that is received. This very high level of application awareness provides visibility into even encrypted traffic and coupled together with the Internet breakout feature, will efficiently steer trusted SaaS and web-based app traffic straight to the Internet.
First-packet iQ is an extension of Silver Peak’s ability to provide application visibility and comes with real-time machine learning capability to enable much more granular control of app performance. Other techniques that Silver Peak uses to provide granular app visibility and control are a dynamic application data repository based on DNS queries, deep packet inspection (DPI), TCP/UDP port data and IP protocol methods.
Muralt said, “Don’t treat apps as all or nothing. Recognise web domains to decide how the application should be treated instead.”
This would offer businesses the benefits of reduced latency and much improved app response time.
Where is Silver Peak going with all this?
Muralt shared their vision for the self-driving WAN so that administrators can focus on creating security policies when the machine notifies him of traffic anomalies and make recommendations to overcome them.
At remote sites, local Edge Connect appliances would then enforce these policies.