The 10 Coolest Software-Defined Networking Technologies Of 2017

SDN Superstars

Software is driving the innovation engine in the networking industry with the fastest-growing vendors doubling down on software-defined networking (SDN) technologies to make the network more agile, flexible and less expensive. Customers are deploying SDN to improve network access control, micro-segmentation and the ability to quickly implement software-based products from security and video applications.

Research firm IDC expects the SDN market to grow from around $400 million in 2013 to more than $6.6 billion in 2017. The firm estimates the market will grow at a 25 percent compound annual growth rate to nearly $14 billion by 2021. CRN looks at 10 of the coolest and most-sought-after SDN technologies in the market during 2017.

Get more of CRN's 2017 tech year in review.

128T Networking Platform

Networking software startup 128 Technology built a distributed routing and network services offering that uses secure routing to simplify network architectures, provide end-to-end control and visibility without disrupting the existing infrastructure. The 128T Networking Platform is a subscription-based platform that enables customers to build networks that are session-based, software-defined and services-centric. The Burlington, Mass.-based startup can natively provide stateful firewall, load balancing and other advanced network capabilities, mitigating the need for expensive stand-alone appliances

Apstra 2.0

A pioneer in intent-based networking to enable a self-operating network, startup Apstra launched the second version of its flagship, vendor-agnostic Apstra Operating System (AOS) this year. The new AOS 2.0 delivers a turnkey intent-based OS and applications that automatically prevent and repair network outages for improved infrastructure uptime, while its distributed data store is a repository of all intent, configuration and telemetry state. AOS 2.0 accelerates the process of migrating from legacy data center infrastructures to modern leaf-spine infrastructures with fully automated and integrated Layer 3 underlay and Layer 2 overlay. AOS 2.0 also includes automation of the entire life cycle of virtual extensible LAN (VXLAN)-based network services within and across racks.

Cisco ACI 3.0

A market leader in SDN, Cisco's four-year-old application centric infrastructure (ACI) now boasts more than 4,000 customers. ACI is based on Cisco switches, software and its Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC). The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant revealed this year ACI 3.0 with a new interface, enhanced security and Kubernetes support. Cisco also said ACI 3.0 will push into the public cloud domain, enabling ACI to be depoyed in Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure. Cisco said customers will have the flexibility to run applications across their own private clouds and the public clouds of their choice while maintaining consistent network policies.

Cisco's Intent-Based Networking

In arguably its biggest launch of the year, Cisco unveiled the Network Intuitive platform, an intent-based networking system that anticipates actions, stops security threats and continues to evolve and learn. Inside the platform is Cisco's new Software-Defined Access that automates tasks such as troubleshooting, provisioning and configuration. The Network Intuitive also includes Cisco's new IOS XE software that's programmable, modular and will "drive intent-driven networking for the next 30 years," said Cisco. Cisco's intent-based networking offers enterprises a new way to deploy and manage multicloud and hybrid environments. With Cisco's new partnership with Google Cloud looking to go head-to-head with VMware Cloud On AWS, the SDN battle for supremacy between Cisco and VMware will march on in 2018.

Google Andromeda

In November, Google unleashed a new version of its software-defined networking stack Andromeda which significantly speeds up network performance on Google's cloud platform. Andromeda 2.1 reduces latency between virtual machines on Google's platform by 40 percent compared with its previous Andromeda stack and by a factor of eight over the original 2014 version. Andromeda is the SDN technology that underpins Google's cloud. The solution enables software-defined control over various Google cloud components including routers, switches, operating systems and hypervisors.

SnapRoute 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 received $25 million in funding this year with investments from AT&T and Microsoft Ventures.

Talari Networks

SD-WAN specialist Talari Networks spent the majority of 2017 forming new technology and channel partnerships and launching new features around its flagship Talari SD-WAN platform including native support for WAN optimization such as data compression and deduplication of data. Talari's offering creates a responsive network that adapts in real time to bandwidth demand and actual network conditions to ensure critical applications have priority. The subscription-based SD-WAN offering can be delivered both via the cloud or as an appliance-based offering. The vendor recently unveiled its new CEO Patrick Sweeney, who served for 16 years as vice president of marketing and product management for SonicWall, and then for Dell, which acquired SonicWall in 2012.

Versa Cloud IP Platform

Software-defined WAN startup Versa Networks significantly beefed up the capabilities of its Versa Cloud IP Platform in 2017 by adding multivector malware security, embedding LTE into the solution and the ability to host third-party virtual network functions to give customers a smooth transition to SD-WAN. The enhanced platform now enables organizations to virtualize and software-define the entire branch and WAN to reduce complexity and increase agility. In November, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup rolled out additional SD-WAN services on the platform that allow for real-time assessment of voice and video sessions based on the quality and behavior of SD-WAN circuits through Mean Opinion Score-based traffic engineering and reporting.

VMware NSX 6.3

Competing against Cisco for leadership in the SDN space is VMware's NSX network virtualization platform, which currently has around 3,000 customers. 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. VMware also recently announced its intent to acquire SD-WAN provider VeloCloud to grow NSX aggressively into SD-WAN.

VMware NSX-T 2.0

VMware made its NSX-T offering, built primarily for non-vSphere environments, generally available in 2017. The hypervisor-agnostic solution enables networking and security management for new application frameworks and architectures such as Container Networking Interface. VMware launched NSX-T 2.0 in August with new features including automation with OpenStack, expanded KVM and VMware Photon container support, microsegmentation and container plug-in for Kubernetes.