Enterprise connectivity on steroids: here comes the 'Cloud WANchitecture'

Concepts such as Network as a Service are catching hold as external networks move off their on-premises hardware base.

Prepare for the next arena of enterprise IT disruption from the cloud model: enterprise cloud wide area networks (WANs).

Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's the word from R. Scott Raynovich, chief analyst and publisher of the Rayno Report. In a soon-to-be-released market analysis, Raynovich predicts that cloud WAN technology will virtualize almost all existing enterprise WAN technology functions, "such as branch-office routers, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), WAN Optimization, and Application Delivery Controller (ADC) technology and move this functionality into the cloud."

What's been at issue with WANs that cloud seeks to address? For those not intimately involved with their organization's external networking requirements, WANs connect corporate networks and branch offices in a global network, and, as Raynovich explains, "often deal with the business equivalent of equipment connectivity snarl, which poses roadblocks and creates unneeded delays and costs." (Think about problems you may have had with your cable box or DVR, and multiply that pain 100,000 times.) Another issue is the cost of proprietary WAN connectivity services, he adds.

Raynovich refers to new Internet-based models as "Cloud WANchitectures," in which entire suites of WAN services "can run on standard server hardware anywhere in the network, so that the services can be accessed, managed, and provisioned in the cloud." The components of a cloud WANchitecture may include the following:

Secure cloud broadband (branch office access): "With WAN cloud software, technology can make existing broadband Internet technologies more robust, by combining circuits from different broadband pipes (link aggregation), optimizing the existing connection (WAN Optimization), and/or providing encryption to add additional security (VPN)."

Network as a Service (NaaS): This option enables enterprises to "rent" their own networks, Raynovich explains. NaaS providers are coming on the market, "focused on providing more reliable and secure WAN connectivity, for both the end users and the data center providers."

Cloud-to-Cloud WAN: Cloud WAN solutions are designed to make it "easier and more efficient to move applications and workloads between data centers. You may also want to use common WAN Optimization techniques to reduce the cost of connecting data centers.

Mobile to Cloud: Cloud WAN will enable greater and more secure between employees' mobile phones and their corporate WAN.

Raynovich identifies some of the major players in this space, including Aryaka, which is building a major NaaS service; Cisco, which recently introduced its WAAS software, a WAN acceleration feature targeted at the cloud; Pertino, which markets the Pertino Cloud Network Engine; and Riverbed, which is moving to a cloud WAN model, and is also partnering with Akamai to develop cloud WAN solutions; and VeloCloud, a pureplay cloud WAN startup that has also built a WAN services overlay.

The cloud WAN services market is projected to grow to $7.5 billion by the year 2020, Raynovich estimates. As a bellwether to the interest in this market, he observes that "more than $360 million in venture capital has been invested in a variety of cloud WAN startups, with 15 to 20 significant companies pursuing the opportunity."