How Network Edge Virtualization for Network Services Takes You Beyond the Data Center

Ted Kawka

Many IT resources now reside outside the confines of corporate data centers. Cloud providers have convinced enterprises of the economic and operational benefits of widely distributed IT infrastructure and resources. For business, privacy, or other reasons, many customers choose to retain ownership of certain data stores or applications on their own infrastructure, resulting in a hybrid cloud environment. Hybrid cloud environments balance corporate control of IT resources with IT resources distributed across clouds. Evolving technologies such as IoT and the growth of mobile applications enabled by 5G networks demand that computing and network infrastructure be optimized for supporting services “at the edge,” giving the best combination of performance and control, while leveraging the agility of the cloud.[1]

Cloud has also changed expectations for how IT infrastructure and services are deployed. Today, enterprises expect cloud-speed implementation and the ability to deploy network services where and when needed. And just as virtualization has transformed how compute and storage resources are deployed and managed, network functions virtualization has done similarly for network services. As a result, traditional methods of procuring and deploying network hardware are being replaced by virtual network functions (VNFs) that quickly deliver similar functionality and do not require expensive hardware.

With Network Edge, an enterprise can deploy virtual SD-WAN services to effectively connect branch offices to existing cloud resources, applications and data.

Network edge virtualization for network services beyond the data center 

Virtual network functions are particularly useful when network architects want to quickly extend the reach of a network or improve network performance and applications well beyond the data center, “at the edge” of widely distributed networks. In these instances, network edge virtualization is becoming a common method for deploying network services such as routers, firewalls and SD-WAN.

Equinix is at the forefront of this transformation, enabling enterprises to realize the benefits of network edge virtualization using its global platform of interconnected data centers, secure connections to cloud, network and SaaS providers, and a growing catalog of virtual network functions. A few real-life examples illustrate the advantages of network edge virtualization.

Network edge virtualization in action

Equinix allows virtual network functions to be deployed on-demand and centrally managed to provide a faster and more cost-efficient means of delivering and managing network services in comparison to the traditional network hardware approach. Three use cases illustrate how enterprises can take advantage of network edge virtualization:

Cloud-to-cloud routing

In multi-cloud environments, applications and the data they access may be hosted with different cloud providers. Performance is directly related to the quality of the connection established between different cloud providers. An enterprise could connect two different cloud environments via internet or more expensive multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) bonded circuits from the corporate data center to each cloud provider. However, routing traffic over the internet can result in unpredictable performance, and backhaul routing introduces unacceptable latency.

An alternative solution for cloud to cloud routing could use a virtual Cisco router deployed in an Equinix data center to provide a secure, direct connection between the two cloud providers. This network edge virtualization approach eliminates the latency issues associated with backhaul and eliminates the need (and expense) for multiple dedicated long-haul circuits.

Connect clouds in remote locations

Network edge virtualization provides a solution for businesses that want to extend their presence and reach new markets quickly, without significant CapEx. A business with a physical presence in an Equinix Silicon Valley colocation center wants to establish a connection between Google Cloud and Azure environments located in the UK. The business has an existing equipment stack in Silicon Valley and wants to avoid the CapEx of creating another physical presence in the UK.

Using Network Edge services from Equinix, in minutes the business creates a virtual router in Equinix’s London colocation center to connect Google and Azure and provisions an ECX Fabric connection, leveraging Equinix’s own network, back to their Silicon Valley equipment. The entire solution for the new location can be deployed in minutes, including the circuit connecting the two geographies.

Branch to cloud SD-WAN

As applications move to the cloud, the approach of backhauling traffic from remote branches to a corporate data center using traditional WAN circuits may not be optimal or cost effective. Traditional WAN environments are typically not designed optimally for accessing cloud applications, which may be located nowhere near the corporate data center. An alternate approach uses SD-WAN to optimize traffic across a mix of network connections—internet and MPLS—based on real-time availability and performance needs. SD-WAN architecture can connect branches, data centers and clouds, at a lower cost of traditional WAN architectures (approximately one third of the cost according to some estimates).

With Network Edge, an enterprise can deploy virtual SD-WAN services to effectively connect branch offices to existing cloud resources, applications and data. SD-WAN services support improved application performance by localizing and optimizing traffic flows between the branch and the cloud, while giving centralized policy management. As throughput and processing demand increases, bandwidth can be easily added to accommodate the need using less expensive circuit options.

In each of these examples, virtual network functions provide an efficient approach to deploying needed services across widely distributed networks quickly and inexpensively. On-demand deployment, ability to locate network services at the edge to optimize performance, centralized management and avoidance of CapEx are compelling reasons to consider the benefits of network functions virtualization.

Fast track to network edge virtualization

Network and cloud architects can gain a detailed understanding of how easily virtual network functions are deployed by watching the Network Edge deployment demo. Architects who then want a hands-on experience can sign up for the Network Edge free trial that will let you select, configure and connect virtual network services in minutes.

Equinix makes it easy for enterprises to successfully deploy virtual network functions to improve application performance, reach new markets, enhance security and optimize network traffic without the delays and expense of procuring and installing network hardware. The global reach of Platform Equinix, secure interconnections enabled by Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ and the Network Edge catalog of virtual network functions from Cisco, Juniper, Palo Alto, CloudGenix, Versa, and Fortinet are enabling enterprises worldwide to realize the benefits of network functions virtualization at the edge.

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Ted Kawka Global Solutions Architect