Opengear is thinking out of the box with its out-of-band (OOB) management solution for software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) deployments. OOB management solutions aren't new—they've been used for many years by cable and telco providers, as well as inside data centers—but can play an increasingly important role as network elements are moved to the edge of networks.
OOB systems provide a secure, alternate path so that a network engineer can reach the console port of any network device even when the production network is disrupted. OOB can also be used to configure and provision devices for remote office deployments.
Other traditional uses for OOB include monitoring, remediation and disaster recovery. Opengear's NetOps Automation Platform is using OOB for the same use cases after they have been automated.
"Opengear NetOps Automation Platform can automatically store and maintain a local copy of all firmware image and configure files where and when they are needed, so that they can be used to re-provision an entire network after a catastrophic event, such as when WAN connectivity might be lost," said Opengear CTO Marcio Saito. "We can do it from factory default or from bare metal."
Edison, New Jersey-based Opengear has been in the OOB business since 2004, and its devices are used by 75% of the Fortune 100 companies, according to Saito. But, Opengear now is finding a footing in the SD-WAN sector.
"All SD-WAN vendors know about OOB, but the combination happens mostly at the end-user, system integrator and service provider level," Saito said. "The challenge for SD-WAN vendors is that OOB doesn’t align with their marketing positioning of 'Cloud provisioning is magic zero-touch, you just plug the box and everything works, always, and it is a single box that replaces everything else.' That does not happen in the real world, but all SD-WAN vendors are pushing that idea.
"Generally, operations people love OOB, marketing people not so much."
Opengear has been deployed by Silver Peak for more than a year. Opengear's box is deployed in a customer's wiring closet next to Silver Peak's box. By providing an OOB LTE connection, a Silver Peak customer stays connected even if there's a backhoe cut or some other disruption to the connections to its box.
Silver Peak's Fraser Street, vice president of technical alliances, said that some Silver Peak customers that have a lot of branch locations typically don't have staff dedicated to IT support at each location. With Opengear's box, an IT team at a central location can look at the Opengear interface when there's a network outage to find their way back to the Silver Peak console port.
"You can use the Opengear box to get in, see what's going on, and potentially re-image the box if there's a software fault," Street said. "In the event that you determine that 'Hey, this really is a network failure' due a backhoe cut, or some other serious failure in the network, we can tell all of that, from the management side enabled by Opengear without having to roll a truck to take any kind of physical action locally."
While not all of Silver Peak's customers elect to use Opengear, Street said those that do have peace of mind that no matter what they'll still be connected via the OOB LTE connection. One large Silver Peak customer is using Opengear to migrate off of Cisco routers in its branch locations. Once a branch location is functional, Silver Peak removes the Opengear device, and uses it bring up another branch location in a "sliding window" type of deployment process.
Opengear levels up OOB for SD-WAN and edge
Opengear will announce its “SD-Infrastructure Module," which is an application to its NetOps Automation Platform, at next month's Cisco Live! conference in San Diego. The SD-Infrastructure Module software expands the reach of orchestrators to the edge even when there is a network disruption.
"The next step for us is to transparently, without locking anyone into a proprietary network, extend the reach of the cloud orchestrator to the remote site at the edge of the network so that if it's (SD-WAN box) disconnected the cloud orchestrator can still manage it," Saito said. "That's an example of the functionality that we are preparing to introduce very soon to increase the availability of SD-WAN. We believe this going to be very important in the future for edge locations."
Saito said the SD-Infrastructure Module was in several proof-of-concept trials with large enterprises.
"In a future of intent-based networking, Cisco DNA Center or Apstra will be in the business of generating intention or configuration files based on business needs," Saito said. "Opengear will be in business of delivering those files to edge location, regardless of the state of the production network.
AvidThink's Roy Chua said the new software could have big implications at the edge. It could serve as a "rescue" framework for remote sites at the edge as networks more complicated.
"I think there's an interesting opportunity here as edge locations multiply," said Chua, the founder and principal at AvidThink. "Reviving a downed mini-datacenter at the edge will require an expensive truck roll with expertise that costs more than a comparable truck-roll for an enterprise branch or residential site. And so, for Opengear, as well as other vendors, there's value in creating a reliable out-of-band or 'rescue platform' framework as part of edge computing rollouts."