SD-WAN has been the one of the trendy topic among SDN applications, and the wide adoption of it is largely contributed to the economical and security factors. Enterprises, particularly in ISP (Internet Service Provider) and CSP (Communication Service Provider), are showing rapid implementation of SD-WAN and SDN – related architectures to overcome challenges in their network management.

It is expected that by 2020, the software-defined infrastructures will experience another wave of widespread implementations, and the market will reach its peak and further segmentations. One of the main reasons for the rapid growth is the use of white-box hardware, as it can really save cost, while offering interoperability, simplified security solution, and ease in management. This article will further discuss the major benefits of white-box servers in SD-WAN scenarios.

1. Cost Incentives

In the past, service providers and operators invested in proprietary equipment to build up their infrastructures. These machines are dedicated for certain functionality, and cannot work with external systems. In other words, service providers and operators have to rely on the vendors for both hardware and software components. Maintenance is also dependent on vendors’ support. The cost burdens in conventional architecture have become apparent as the demand for expanded bandwidth and shortened response time means more proprietary hardware, APIs and other maintenance costs. Profitability has thus been shrunk.

Thus, service providers and operators have turned to SD-WAN. The use of white-box with open architecture encourages interoperability with open source software and external systems. In other words, SD-WAN offers standardized interface for the server to work with other subsystems and software components harmoniously. IT management staff no longer have to deal with complicated proprietary systems in maintenance. In fact, with the use of white-box uCPE/vCPE, the SD-WAN architecture can be easily duplicated in multiple branch offices in just hours, without assistance from vendors. This has saved a massive amount maintenance, implementation, as well as investment in additional hardware like dedicated router, firewall, and WAN accelerators. All these functions can be consolidated into the vCPE/uCPE through software means, like VNF (Virtual Network Functions).

2. Ease of Deployment

Due to the software-defined nature, infrastructure owners just have to adopt a white-box appliance and implement their software applications, which means, the duplication in other branch offices can be done in hours of time. Recently, there is a phenomenon of “zero-touch provisioning”, indicating that extensive technical assistance is not required at the branch to set the uCPE/vCPE up. On-site personnel is not necessary.

There are leading vendors in the SD-WAN market offering complete “zero-touch” solutions with all the software and hardware pre-configured for your applications. These vendors most likely adopt white-box server to run custom VNFs to ensure compatibility when customers receive the solutions. With pre-configured uCPE/vCPE solutions, users can set it up for network services without specialized professional on-site.

3. Visibility and Monitoring

SD-WAN abstracts a logical layer over networking hardware to provide visibility and monitoring for IT management staff to control and analyze SD-WAN status. Policies can be configured while monitoring the network performance, data traffic, and application usage. In fact, white-box uCPE/vCPE is ideal for this case.

IT management may leverage visibility VNF to deploy onto uCPE/vCPE appliance to enable monitoring capability so that data traffic, encryption states, and application consumption can be visible to management staff in remote locations.

4. Security

SD-WAN vendors today would most likely consolidate security VNFs upon offering their solutions, such as embedded firewall, IPSec, VPN and detection mechanism for malicious attack. For end-to-end scenarios, SD-WAN solutions must come with encryption and authorization policies to assure secure data transfer.

In terms of security, white-box hardware is the optimal option as it can run third-party security VNFs compatibly due to the open architecture. In other words, IT management can implement various, diverse security policies onto white box uCPE/vCPE without additional cost and effort.

5. Quality of Services

As mentioned, the software-defined nature of SD-WAN offers visibility to IT management once the necessary VNF is deployed. On the other hand, SD-WAN can provide multiple WAN links for WAN optimization and load-balancing. Thus, the IT management can define QoS – oriented policies in terms of the priority for executing WAN optimization and load-balancing towards certain critical applications.

6. Wide Compatibility

The SDN or SD-WAN market will be segmented and there will be diversified VNF vendors to supply various types of VNFs for different application scenarios. Thus, white-box uCPE/vCPE have the wide-compatibility advantages to run all types of VNF to enable versatility in networking services.

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