The History of Software Defined Technologies

For several years now, there has been considerable buzz surrounding software defined technologies, including SD-WANs in particular. An increasing number of enterprises are looking to deploy these solutions within their own infrastructures to boost bandwidth utilization and ensure support for mission-critical applications. This is contributing to significant growth in the SD-WAN marketplace – MarketsandMarkets predicted that by 2020, this sector would be worth around $5.57 billion.

However, software defined technologies didn’t just spring up out of nowhere. These solutions have an interesting history that shows how common pain points can help spur the creation of something truly impactful. Let’s take a look at the history of software defined systems, including SDN and SD-WAN.

SDN: From Stanford to enterprises everywhere

According to Enterprise Networking Planet, the underpinning technology of software defined networking was created by Martin Casado during his time at Stanford in the early 2000s. Casado’s thesis work led him and other researchers to establish OpenFlow in 2005, a main SDN protocol. The creation of OpenFlow occurred in conjunction with the open-source NOX controller, a system used to enable controllers to connect, communicate and manage switches within a network.

After Stanford, Casado went on to form Nicira Networks in 2007, which was then acquired by VMware in 2012. While Casado’s SDN technology might have had humble beginnings, he noted that the marketplace has largely run away with SDN, making it more of an overarching term than a specific technological solution now.

While the capabilities had been in place for years, the first reliable SD-WAN was created by Talari in 2008.

While the capabilities had been in place for years, the first reliable SD-WAN was created in 2008.

“SDN and OpenFlow came out of work we were doing at Stanford,” Casado told Enterprise Networking Planet. “I actually don’t know what SDN means anymore, to be honest. Now, it is just being used as a general term for networking, like all networking is SDN. SDN is now just an umbrella term for cool stuff in networking.”

However, Casado has hope that SDN will progress.

“The goal is, how do you make networking have the properties of software systems as far as innovation, provisioning speed, and upgrade speed,” Casado said. “You want networks to be as flexible and as agile as compute is. That’s not the case today, but that’s where we’re going.”

SD-WAN: Born from WAN optimization

As SD-WAN expert Andy Gottlieb pointed out, the ability to leverage several aggregate links for connectivity has been around for decades. In fact, the first solutions that enabled the use of Internet as WAN were actually being delivered around 20 years ago. However, as Gottlieb noted, “no one would really call these SD-WAN solutions,” though.

According to Network World, the road to SD-WAN began as far back as the 1970s and 1980s, when some of the first Internet-based services began forming the framework for today’s enterprise WANs. Many experts, though, point to the early 2000s – when multiprotocol label switching was created and caught on – spurred the invention of WAN Optimization, which ultimately led to SD-WAN solutions.

“It wasn’t until 2008 that the first reliable SD-WAN solution came to market.”

“The high cost of and relatively low bandwidth available with Frame Relay and MPLS at most locations are just some of the reasons WAN Optimization technology became so popular in the 2000s,” Gottlieb wrote for Network World in 2012. “With the challenge of private and public cloud computing facing enterprise WAN managers, combined with the continuing inexorable growth in file sizes and the demands of new applications, the situation is ripe for a NEW architecture to revolutionize the enterprise WAN at least as much as Frame Relay did more than 15 years ago.”

Enter SD-WAN solutions. While early instances of software defined WAN solutions have been available for years, it wasn’t until 2008 that the first reliable SD-WAN solution came to market. At the time, this represented the gold standard in SD-WAN technology, providing superior scalability, flexibility and insight into network activity than ever before. This solution came from Talari, and it is still an industry-leading technology today.

“Who was the first SD-WAN vendor? That’s difficult to say,” Gottlieb wrote. “But there’s no doubt that Talari was the first reliable SD-WAN vendor, and that even now there are only a small handful of SD-WAN solutions that can deliver the reliability and application performance predictability that enterprise IT managers and their users expect.”

To learn more about how businesses leverage SD-WAN technology in real-life settings, check out some of our case studies, or contact Talari for a custom demonstration of our market leading SD-WAN solution today.

Categories: Enhance WAN Optimization, IT Challenges, Network Reliability, Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN)


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