The 10 Best SDN Solutions Of 2018 (So Far)

Hottest SDN Tech Of 2018

Software is front and center in the networking world this year as customers demand more programmable, agile and less costly network solutions.

The increasing adoption of cloud-based services and need to reduce data center complexity is driving sales for technologies such as software-defined WAN and intent-based networking. The global software-defined networking solutions and services market is projected to increase 54 percent on a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next several years, reaching $88 billion by 2024, according to a research report by Global Market Insights.

CRN breaks down ten of the coolest and most sought-after software-defined networking technologies in the market so far in 2018.

(For more on the biggest news of 2018, check out "CRN's Tech Midyear In Review.").

Apstra AOS 2.2

Apstra launched a new version of its flagship intent-based networking AOS software this year with features including intent-based analytics. AOS 2.2 is a turnkey solution that lets users fully automate data center operations across the network regardless of customers' vendor mix, enabling the Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup's technology to automatically prevent and repair network outages. The new version has embedded big data analytics that allows operators to specify how they expect their network to operate and continuously validates the operator's intent, generating anomalies when it detects an irregularity. AOS 2.2 now supports multi-tenancy and enhanced inter-rack Layer 2 connectivity though Ethernet VPN which provides a scalable control plane.

Big Switch's SDN Cloud Fabric

Big Switch Networks introduced new support this year for VMware vSAN, Dell EMC ScaleIO and Nutanix hyper-converged solutions for its Big Cloud Fabric SDN switching fabric. Big Switch's data center software-defined networking solution delivers network automation, visibility for cloud-native applications and can complete fabric upgrades within minutes. The solution leverages an SDN-based leaf/spine fabric and open networking hardware to enable rapid provision of networks for scale-out deployments and high performance for large clusters. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based vendor's Big Cloud Fabric has many successful use cases involving hyper-converged infrastructure, containerized workloads, OpenStack, and low latency VDI workloads.

Cisco Intent-Based Networking

Cisco has been investing heavily in its one-year-old intent-based networking platform in 2018 which now boasts 5,800 customers. CEO Chuck Robbins recently told CRN that Cisco's intent-based strategy -- which uses software to automate network policy and management -- is shifting more toward an open, software-defined architecture. The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant is making DNA Center, the control and management plane for intent-based networking, an open platform to allow partners to develop custom applications and offer more SDN solutions for customers. Cisco also launched two new software systems, Network Assurance Engine and DNA Center Assurance, in 2018 to boost the platform's SDN capabilities.

Dell EMC VEP 4600

Doubling down on its open networking strategy, Dell EMC launched its x-86 based Virtual Edge Platform networking solution this year that uses Intel's Xeon D-2100 processor to connect the edge to the cloud. The VEP 4600 is a universal virtual networking CPE that Dell calls the ideal access platform for SD-WAN and virtual networking functions like routing and deep-packet inspection. The Round Rock, Texas-based infrastructure behemoth has validated three SD-WAN solutions on the platform: VMware's Velocloud, Silver Peak and Versa Networks. VEP 4600 began shipping in April and is priced at $1,500 in the U.S.

HPE Aruba SD Branch

In June, HPE Aruba introduced SD-Branch that combines new branch and headend gateways with existing HPE Aruba technology, including its ClearPass policy management, to form an integrated SD-WAN, WLAN, LAN and security solution. The new Aruba Branch Gateways are purpose-built using software developed in-house with integration top of mind. The gateways integrate with Aruba's recently enhanced Aruba Central cloud management platform to provide a single point for SD-WAN, wired and wireless networking, and policy enforcement. Aruba said SD-Branch enables customers to manage more branch locations with less staff while leveraging a consistent approach for security and compliance across locations.

Juniper Contrail SD-WAN

Juniper Networks Contrail SD-WAN delivers a multi-cloud solution that enables customer to automate the WAN edge across virtual cloud endpoints and on-premises firewall or CPE platforms. The solution uses Juniper's Contrail Service Orchestration to design, secure, automate and run the entire service life cycle across Juniper networking products such as routers, gateways and other network platforms. In June, Juniper enhanced Contrail SD-WAN capabilities to add support for fine-grained Application Quality of Experience (AppQoE), offering visibility and management in individual application performance for more than 3,700 apps including Microsoft Outlook and Skype for Business. Customers can now tune application performance to and from the branch using Contrail's orchestration managed policies.

Nutanix Flow

As part of Nutanix's 2018 strategy to become a software-only vendor, the hyper-converged infrastructure pioneer launched a new software-defined networking product designed for multi-cloud environments: Nutanix Flow. Flow provides application-centric security to protect against internal and external threats that are undetected by traditional perimeter-oriented security products. The solution includes network provisioning and management automation, as well as native micro-segmentation services that govern traffic between individual applications to protect against threats. San Jose, Calif.-based Nutanix embed Flow into the company's flagship Enterprise Cloud OS.

Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN

Aimed at lowering WAN costs, Silver Peak's Unity EdgeConnect provides predictable application performance and a seamless migration path to SD-WAN. Unity EdgeConnect features dynamic path control, edge-to-edge data security and real-time updates on the best path to reach Software-as-a-Service applications. In June, Silver Peak revamped the SD-WAN solution by introducing segmentation and security service chaining. The new features enable distributed enterprises to centrally segment users, applications and WAN services into secure zones and automate application traffic steering across the LAN and WAN. For businesses with multi-vendor security architectures, EdgeConnect now provides seamless drag and drop service chaining to security infrastructure and services.

VMware NSX Cloud

At Dell Technologies World 2018, VMware unveiled its new NSX Cloud as part of the company's new Virtual Cloud Network strategy. VMware's NSX Cloud provides consistent networking and security for applications running in both private VMware-based data centers and natively in public clouds. The new product has native controls for Microsoft Azure and AWS. NSX Cloud aims to solve the challenges of using multiple public clouds such as inconsistent policies and constructs across clouds, manual operations requiring policy for each cloud, and operations tools that are specific to each public cloud.


VMware acquired Software-Defined WAN powerhouse VeloCloud in late 2017 to become a SD-WAN market leader. In May, the virtualization leader launched the new NSX SD-WAN by VeloCloud that provides assured application performance from the data center to the branch to the cloud with end-to-end segmentation through NSX Data Center integrations. NSX SD-WAN enables cloud and application performance with full visibility, metrics and control of all devices and user endpoints, as well as simplified activation and automated connectivity.

NSX SD-WAN by VeloCloud is part of VMware's Virtual Cloud Network strategy which had VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger fired up at Dell Technologies World. "This is the VMware vision for the future for networking: a ubiquitous software layer from the data center to cloud to edge -- empowering you to connect and secure data regardless of where they might reside; embedded security directly into the platform; and enabling control and automation," said Gelsinger.