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Optimizing The Enterprise Edge With White Box Solutions


The current age of virtualization of applications in the cloud is leading to more agile networks, and a new array of flexible and secure on-demand services at the enterprise edge. This trend shows no sign of changing in the coming years, as players across a whole range of business verticals seek to create a new ecosystem that spurs innovation and faster return on investment.

SD-WAN & SASE Transformation

With a large proportion of the world’s population working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, this has only served to speed up the digital transformation. And going forward, many business leaders plan to continue allowing remote working for at least some of the time, leading to the need for systems that can handle these new requirements.

At the core of this transformation will be the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN), a segment that has been growing rapidly and is set to boom for the foreseeable future – with the global market size predicted to quadruple from US$1.9 billion in 2020 to US$8.4 billion by 2025, according to Markets and Markets.

Among other advantages, SD-WAN facilitates contextual awareness about WAN and connection quality, allowing software to efficiently reroute traffic when connections go down between on-premise equipment and the cloud. Technology such as SDbranch software can also extend SD-WANs into the local area network (LAN), improving visibility overapplications and local devices.

Changes brought on by SD-WAN and other network transformations are set to support a whole range of new applications as the telecoms industry moves rapidly towards 5G, while helping fulfill the needs of the future created by a more distributed edge and cloud networks. This will open up the possibilities for the internet of things (IoT) and AI, as well as business cases that intelligently combine the two in artificial-intelligence-of-things (AIoT) devices.

AIoT, which comprises mission-critical connected devices for smart factories, warehouses, energy grids, hospitals, smart cities, stadiums and a whole host of other uses, will push the network to new limits – requiring fresh Open Edge computing platforms that can deliver low-latency, high-bandwidth and secure communication services.

Fresh Opportunities

The dynamic changing market realities represent a significant opportunity for both service providers and enterprises if they can harness them in an effective, agile way. The COVID-19 global pandemic is accelerating these trends, with enterprises ramping up remote working. Indeed, 60% of executives in a recent IBM survey said they have accelerated their companies' digital transformations during the pandemic.

One key way to meet this increased demand for flexibility and security is via white-box SD-WAN and universal customer premises equipment (uCPE). Such products provide an open and versatile enterprise network infrastructure to fulfill the need for different levels of virtualization and functionality required by different enterprises and service providers.

The disaggregation of hardware and software function in white-box solutions paves the way to a vibrant, open ecosystem, avoiding vendor lock-in and facilitating a wider marketplace with new business opportunities, whereby customers can pick and choose among the most popular SD-WAN and security solutions to enhance innovation and competitiveness.

In addition, open and software-defined network infrastructure solutions enable cloud-native microservice architectures for seamless web-scale open compute, networking and storage. As software agnostic infrastructure, white boxes protect network investment, being ready to incorporate future technologies as they become available.

However, some challenges are posed by virtualization and the use of white-box solutions in terms of achieving the performance and reliability levels of proprietary hardware. As enterprises become much more distributed and move to a less data-center-centric architecture, it is important that they also provide a high level of security against threats – with data breaches causing a loss of customer trust.

Finding the right balance between agility, performance, and reliability is a fine-art for every IT engineer that can be solved by choosing white-box off-the-shelf – yet optimized and qualified – platforms that have been designed for high availability networks to accelerate SD-WAN and security workloads, achieving the required throughput and minimizing service interruptions.

New Era of Security

One candidate that has real potential for boosting security in white boxes is secure access service edge, or SASE, architecture. SASE, which Gartner predicts will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 42 percent over the next five years to reach almost $11 billion by 2024, incorporates a range of technologies that boost its flexibility and make it more secure for the new age of virtualization than legacy technologies – including SD-WAN, zero-trust network access (ZTNA) and firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS).

The massive trend towards virtualization, distributed, dynamic networks, and shift in focus from the datacentre to connectivity for all sorts of intelligent devices anywhere and everywhere necessitate a change in approach to security as well.

The need for agile security has been highlighted further by the COVID-19 pandemic, amid the rapid shift to working from home. In addition, the past year has seen a huge rise in threats such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, showing how these can accelerate in a transforming market with a vast number of mission-critical devices online.

Legacy networks with bolted-on security are not adequate to support the needs created by distributed applications, leaving enterprises susceptible to costly network violations. This new era of IoT cloudification therefore also calls for a new generation of security, supported by the dynamic network and security-as-a-service-type models with high reliability and dynamic routing.

Advantech’s Answer

One player able to offer such an open edge platform to accelerate enterprise transformation is Advantech, which has been a frontrunner in state-of-the-art technologies including SD-WAN, security, AI, and IoT. The company’s broad range of white-box network appliances can ramp up enterprise services from small and medium branches to large campuses and headquarters, while supporting the latest processing and networking technology, helping extend the cloud to the IoT edge.

Advantech Universal Edge Appliances for SD-WAN, SASE, and uCPE range from slim devices for cloud-based deployments to versatile platforms for wide-scale rollouts and high-end appliances for the most demanding scenarios, with a build that supports the company’s four key pillars of performance, reliability, eco-system collaboration and global value-added services.

Advantech’s off-the-shelf range is built on Intel processors, with multiple configurations and price points to suit different customers, throughputs from a few Mbps to hundreds of Gbps, and highly flexible LAN and WAN connectivity that allows hybrid configurations of technologies.

The company’s offerings range from the slim FWA-T011 for cloud-based, thin edge rollouts to the FWA-5070 for highly demanding thick edge deployments. Superior quality designs and built-in reliability features minimize system downtime, service interruptions, and costly onsite interventions. The combination of different networking technologies in these off-the-shelf white boxes, such as SD-WAN, NGFW or 5G virtual radio access network (vRAN), facilitates the creation of converged architecture, streamlining the rollout of new services that support both people and connected things. To provide these offerings in a way that delivers the agile and secure connectivity solutions required by operators and enterprises, Advantech works with a variety of strategic partners with expertise in multiple different areas, from SD-WAN to SASE, orchestration, and uCPE – including ADVA, Ekinops, Enea, flexiWAN, Fortinet, Neeco, Nuvias, Silver Peak, Telco Systems, Versa Networks, and World Wide Technology. The company also has certification and regional services that allow products to be deployed globally in a secure way with a support network to underpin this, backed up by Advantech’s more than 8,000 employees worldwide. Advantech’s added-value services include tailored branding, packaging and logistics, hardware and firmware customization, and pre-integrated platforms shipped with factory-installed software images.

                         Picture.1 Advantech Tiny Network Appliance FWA-T011

Companies integrating solutions from Advantech include Verizon Wireless and Colt, operators that are at the forefront of pushing uCPE. Verizon Wireless has certified the FWA-1010VC and FWA-1012VC within its Open Development Initiative, while Advantech’s SD-WAN + uCPE solution that it runs in collaboration with ADVA and Versa Networks is also being deployed by Colt.

The ability to offer optimized white-box solutions has allowed Advantech to engage in some highly forward-looking business models, co-creating products and services aimed at forming the backbone of the new AIoT economy by working closely with customers and ecosystem partners.

These types of strong relationships give the company a significant edge in the market when designing products that harness Advantech’s over 20 years of experience providing mission-critical hardware to leading global communications solutions and service providers.

Companies integrating solutions from Advantech include Verizon Wireless and Colt, operators that are at the forefront of pushing uCPE. Verizon Wireless has certified the FWA-1010VC and FWA-1012VC within its open Development Initiative, while Advantech’s SD-WAN+ uCPE solution that it runs in collaboration with ADVA and Versa Networks is also being deployed by Colt. In addition, Advantech and ADVA have opened a lab to jointly streamline uCPE adoption, whereby customers can evaluate enterprise network solutions from leading partners Fortinet and Silver Peak.

Furthermore, Germany-based telecoms service provider WiTCOM is deploying an open uCPE platform via an Advantech FWA-1012VC white box to enable an edge cloud for supporting smart city applications – including IoT, traffic control, surveillance, and wholesale services. This deployment shows an ideal use for such white-box services, as a business case that allows new applications to be dynamically added on top of rugged open hardware in the flexible type of rollout needed to grow smart cities.

In a separate move geared towards high-end white-box SD-WAN deployments, secure cloud company Versa Networks qualified Advantech’s FWA-5070 platform for targeting large enterprise and cloud gateway installations. With data throughput of up to 220Gbps, the box offers up to 40Gbps of routing and 20Gbps of encrypted SD-WAN, while allowing higher capacity by offloading SD-WAN encryption and decryption from the main processor. This popular unit with strong customer adoption is Versa Network’s highest-performance certified appliance available in the market today.

Advantech also views SASE as a way forward for security, so the company’s white-box platforms support that technology in collaboration with partners such as  NetFoundry. This cooperation combines NetFoundry’s global fabric with Advantech’s edge appliances, enabling cloud-native, application-specific networking, managed as a network-as-a-service offering.

Advantech’s range of products reflects the modern needs of businesses to build an open universal enterprise edge for supporting the whole host of future services that are arriving in today’s more virtualized world.

Picture 2. Advantech 1U Rackmount Network Appliance FWA-5070

Forging for the Future

Now, more than ever, there is a need to have networks in place that are both resilient and enable a huge amount of flexibility and agility to handle the age of 5G and the number of smart IoT devices that are set to come online. And the digital transformation is set to only ramp up in the coming years, shifting the focus to devise identity with the additional move to working from home.

White-box enterprise network solutions hold promise as a hugely effective way of moving with the times, allowing enterprises and service providers to capitalize on the whole plethora of opportunities enabled by the virtualized intelligent edge across business verticals including healthcare, logistics, transportation, and full-scale smart cities. They can help enable use cases such as intelligent security systems or intelligent retail, whereby a supermarket might automate everything on-premises, including logistics and supply-chain management in real-time, seamless integration with public and private clouds, and highly relevant personalized advertising. Another example is used in smart grids to monitor electrical power systems, stabilize supplies, and improve operational efficiency.

And for operators and enterprises running mission-critical services, one application that makes on-pre-open edge appliances highly attractive as 5G begins to take off with a growing number of launches will be the ability to run private extensions on the new technology. These can create low-latency and high-performance, secure connections for devices on the network and enable AIoT business cases, which will become increasingly important with 5G.

Ultimately, with optimized enterprise edge solutions from vendors such as Advantech that combine openness and versatility with high performance and reliability, it will open up new pathways in this age of transformation to service providers and enterprises in all sorts of business verticals.

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About Advantech

Advantech’s corporate vision is to enable an intelligent planet. The company is a global leader in the fields of IoT intelligent systems and embedded platforms. To embrace the trends of IoT, big data, and artificial intelligence, Advantech promotes IoT hardware and software solutions with the Edge Intelligence WISE-PaaS core to assist business partners and clients in connecting their industrial chains. Advantech is also working with business partners to co-create business ecosystems that accelerate the goal of industrial intelligence.