The 10 Coolest Software-Defined Networking Technologies Of 2017 (So Far)

The Coolest In SDN

There's little doubt that software-defined networking will continue to play a larger role in the networking industry as market leaders like Cisco Systems and VMware double down on their SDN strategies in 2017.

Customers are looking to leverage SDN to become more agile and flexible, and help with their shift from Capex to Opex spending. Legacy vendors and startups are striving to build the next great software-defined offering for a growing market. Research firm IDC expects the SD-WAN market to grow at more than a 90 percent compound annual growth rate over the next few years -- increasing from $225 million in 2016 to $6 billion by 2020.

CRN looks at 10 of the coolest and most-sought-after SDN technologies in the market during the first half of 2017.

(For more on the "coolest" of 2017, check out "CRN's Tech Midyear In Review.")

128T Networking Platform

Burlington, Mass-based startup 128 Technology built a software-based routing offering that was created to be both session-oriented and service-centric. The 128T Networking Platform is a distributed routing and network services offering that uses secure routing to simplify network architectures, provides end-to-end control and visibility without disrupting existing network infrastructure, and enables customers to build networks that are session-based, software-defined and services-centric. The platform is sold as a monthly subscription.

The 128T Networking Platform can natively provide stateful firewall, load balancing and other advanced network capabilities, mitigating the need for expensive stand-alone appliances. Being session-oriented also enables the platform to eliminate overlays and tunneling techniques that are prone to latency and complexity, said the company.

Cato Cloud

Cato Networks launched a software-defined WAN service this year: the Cato Cloud. The offering extends the WAN with policy-based routing, an SLA-backed global backbone, enterprise-grade network security as well as cloud and mobile support that reduces reliance on MPLS services. The Alpharetta, Ga.-based company said Cato Cloud converges networking with security to reduce the cost and complexity of existing networks.

The offering eliminates the need for additional firewalls, web filters, VPNs and other security products required by traditional SD-WAN deployments. By embedding security into the network fabric, Cato Cloud enables secure internet access from branch locations without the need for backhauling or distributed security appliances, said Cato Networks.

Cisco ACI

It's hard to talk about SDN without mentioning Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), which was unveiled four years ago and is based on Cisco Nexus 9000 switches and its Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC).

Although the average deployment for ACI can be pricey – partners say the cost is around $200,000 to $250,000 with typical customers being large enterprises or service providers – Cisco reported during its third fiscal quarter that ACI grew 42 percent year over year.

"Our ACI portfolio grew 42 percent as customers moved to 100-Gig and look to automate the network and increase network performance, visibility and security," said Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins. "Our APIC adoption continues to increase rapidly with over 380 new ACI customers in Q3, bringing our total to nearly 3,500."

Cisco Software-Defined Access

Touting it as one of the biggest networking launches in the company's history, Cisco last month unveiled what it called its "revolutionary" Network Intuitive platform. One key aspect of the new architecture is the networking giant's new Software-Defined Access that automates tasks such as troubleshooting, provisioning and configuration.

SD-Access uses automated policy enforcement and network segmentation over a single network fabric to simplify network access for users, devices and things. Cisco said the offering reduces network provisioning by 67 percent, improves issue resolution by 80 percent, reduces security breach impact by 48 percent and includes Opex savings of 61 percent.

Pluribus Networks Adaptive Cloud Fabric

Pluribus Networks recently unveiled its new Adaptive Cloud Fabric, touting it as a simple, dynamic and secure approach to building a holistic distributed network that brings the benefits of cloud-scale, elasticity and adaptability to the modern data center. The virtualized architecture integrates a broad range of advanced network services while providing visibility for all network traffic.

Built on Pluribus' Netvisor network virtualization software, the fabric operates without a controller and delivers an elastic network that adopts to change and a wide range of deployment scenarios to streamline operations, improve efficiency and lower costs, said the company. The offering can be deployed across the data center or on specific racks, servers and hyper-converged infrastructure from vendors such as Nutanix and Dell.

SnapRoute's FlexSwitch

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup's flagship FlexSwitch offering is a fully programmable, open-source software stack aimed at helping companies improve the management of their cloud systems. SnapRoute's FlexSwitch enables every component of the network stack to be fully visible to the operator and completely modular so operators can continuously install or update only what is necessary for the infrastructure to run without impact or risk to the business.

The SDN offering can run on any bare-metal hardware and allows operators to use a variety of options for managing the network including CLI, JSON or tools like Puppet or Chef. SnapRoute said FlexSwitch exposes code as open source and gives access to it through a standard set of APIs, enabling operators to quickly correlate network anomalies and identify problems in the network before they occur.

Talari Networks SD-WAN

Software-defined WAN specialist Talari Networks launched an SD-WAN offering that can be delivered via the cloud or as an appliance-based offering on a subscription-based pricing model. The San Jose, Calif.-based company's offering creates a responsive network that adapts in real time to bandwidth demand and actual network conditions to ensure critical applications have priority. It brings continuous availability and predictable performance whether using all MPLS, hybrid WAN MPLS and broadband WAN, the internet, or wireless.

In June, Talari significantly expanded its channel and market reach through a new distribution partnership with Tech Data.

Versa Cloud IP Platform

SD-WAN startup Versa Networks beefed up the capabilities of its Versa Cloud IP Platform offering by recently adding new security functions, local branch networking and the ability to host third-party virtual network functions (VNFs) to give customers a smooth transition to SD-WAN. The multitenant platform already includes Versa Director, which offers a single pane of glass for life-cycle management and real-time monitoring, as well as its big data analytics platform, Versa Analytics.

The enhanced platform now enables organizations to virtualize and software-define the entire branch and WAN to reduce complexity and increase agility. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup also added multivector malware security and embedded LTE into the platform for more resilient deployments and to reduce clutter.

VMware NSX 6.3

Another leading SDN product is VMware NSX. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor launched NSX 6.3 earlier this year with improved scaling and a significant performance boost in multitenant environments compared with earlier operations. The new version leverages VMware vRealize Network Insight – technology it acquired from Arkin last year -- which provides management and intelligence to software-defined data center environments.

NSX 6.3 also includes features that enable micro-segmenting, including an application rule manager that makes it easy for channel partners to help clients decide which part of their infrastructure to micro-segment. During VMware's recent first fiscal quarter 2018, NSX license bookings grew over 50 percent year over year on top of the company's already 2,600 NSX customers.

VMware NSX-T

VMware this year made its NSX-T offering -- built primarily for non-vSphere environments -- generally available. Rajiv Ramaswami, COO, products and cloud services for VMware, told CRN that the new NSX-T product enables networking and security management for new application frameworks and architectures that have diverse endpoints and technology stacks.

NSX-T is hypervisor-agnostic and has expanded KVM and VMware Photon container support, as well as support for new application frameworks including Container Networking Interface. VMware said the product's road map will eventually focus on container environments that are based on open-source software.