Packet Pushers: Is SD-WAN The Walkman Of Networking?

By Dr. Ritesh Mukherjee, Vice President of Product Management at 128 Technology |

This guest blog post is by Dr. Ritesh Mukherjee, Vice President of Product Management at 128 Technology. We thank 128 Technology for being a sponsor.


The Sony Walkman was a revelation when it first arrived: Your music became portable and private. You could take your favorite songs out in public, to the gym or the office, or just around the house. Sony profited mightily, and dozens of imitators arose to tap into a brand-new market.

We all know what happened. Music became digitized, and the iPod and then smartphones relegated the Walkman to just another pit stop in the ongoing evolution of technology.

SD-WAN could follow a similar path. At the moment, SD-WAN is a rapidly growing market. The technology surprises and delights customers because it offers measurable value—customers can take advantage of low-cost Internet connections, use application identification to inform security and network policies and combine multiple network links to ensure high performance.

And yet, SD-WAN may also be a phase. Networks need a fresh perspective to prepare them for 5G, IoT, and cloud.

Further down the road, augmented reality, autonomous cars, smart cities, intelligent agriculture, remote-assisted surgeries, and other advances will require a more robust, secure, and intelligent network.

We need to ask tough questions about whether the tunneling technologies that SD-WAN relies on can enable future networks.

How can millions of end points be securely connected using tunnels without aggregating flows? Can tunnels provide high-speed mobility that future applications demand? How can tunnels evolve to scale to provide dynamic point-to-point connectivity without complex configurations or messaging? There is no tunneling technology that can meet these needs today.

Core Truths

While it’s difficult to anticipate the future, we believe there are several core truths will inform the next generation of networking.

The future of networks is software

Software is driving network evolution. Some folks like to call it software-defined everything (SDx). Software-driven technologies have reaped incredible efficiencies and economies of scale unimaginable a decade ago. Network operators can’t go from device to device making individual changes by hand. Software-driven automation is the only way for networks to keep pace.

The network cannot be a dumb pipe

Application recognition, quality of service based on applications, and operations on sessions rather than packets are must-haves to deliver next-generation networks. It’s time we embraced the idea of operating on sessions as the de facto method rather than using middleboxes like firewalls, load balancers, WAN optimizers, and other devices sprinkled across the network to perform those tasks.

IP routing is superior to tunneling

Tunneling technologies are inefficient and must be replaced with IP routing. Intelligent in-band exchanges and signaling can be used to establish context. This enables robust scale and performance without placing any limitation on how sessions are routed to their desired endpoints.

Security must be pervasive

The technology industry keeps saying perimeter security is dead, but then we try to force traffic through a single point in the network or cloud to scrub sessions. True mobility, bring-your-own-device (BYOD), and pervasive security can only be possible with zero-trust networks.

With these core truths in mind, we can try to evolve the network to what it should be, not just what it is today. Along the way, we can learn from what’s good about SD-WAN and current technologies. However, we need to get to iPods and then smartphones, rather than try to build a better Walkman.

At 128 Technology we challenge the status quo, learn from everything around us, and look to build new ways to operate networks. Come take a look at what we are doing. Let us continue to evolve the network.

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