Making It Connect: Using a Multi-Vendor Networking Environment 

Amit Srivastava

The key benefits of virtualization technology—on-demand deployment, scalability and CapEx reduction—that drive widespread cloud adoption are now being applied to network functions. Network functions virtualization (NFV) decouples network functions from underlying hardware, allowing these functions to run as software images on commodity hardware. NFV enables the virtualization of services such as routing, firewalls, load balancing, and WAN optimization.

NFV is transforming the design, orchestration and management of network services. Architects now use NFV capabilities to provide network services within a single box rather than using multiple purpose-built appliances. Automated provisioning allows an enterprise to have network services deployed on-demand in on-premises data centers, colocation centers, or branch locations.

Leading network vendors such as Cisco, Palo Alto, Juniper Networks, Fortinet, and Versa are applying decades of experience in developing network hardware and services to the creation of virtual network functions that provide equivalent capabilities without the need of hardware deployment. Cloud-native vendors like CloudGenix are addressing the market interest in VNFs.

As a result of the investments in VNFs, enterprises now have a wide range of VNF vendors and products that can help integrate these services into their existing network architecture. For enterprises already employing a multi-vendor networking environment, the ability to deploy VNFs to replace existing network hardware, expand network reach or enhance performance can significantly improve network agility and operational efficiency.

The demand for direct interconnections to manage data generated by workloads running on the cloud-enabled edge is motivating network architects to find more efficient means to deploy and manage network services. VNFs provide a welcome answer to this need.

Benefits of a multi-vendor networking environment

Despite the established market leadership of certain network vendors, rarely can a single vendor address all of an enterprise’s network services needs. Each vendor brings unique technical strengths and functionality. Flexibility in deploying VNFs from multiple vendors gives architects striving to design the optimum network architecture a choice. A multi-vendor networking environment:

  • Avoids vendor lock-in and allows architects to choose best-of-breed by evaluating different vendors and selecting the VNFs that best meet network architecture needs.
  • Leverages current technical and operational knowledge of a vendor’s network hardware functionality and configuration to accelerate VNF selection and deployment.
  • Complements existing network hardware with virtual network functions to expand network services and reach and integrate new service into the existing architecture.
  • Gives architects the option to chain ‘virtual network functions’ of their choice to deliver a network service.

A multi-vendor networking environment also gives enterprises the option to determine the best solution for specific network needs. In certain situations, only network hardware deployed in a rack in a data center may deliver the required performance. In many other situations, a virtual network function from the same network vendor is the preferred alternative because of ease of deployment and management.

Single-source of market-leading VNFs

Equinix is at the forefront of supporting the multi-vendor networking needs of enterprises. Equinix has collaborated with the leading network vendors to allow network architects to deploy and manage a wide range of virtual network functions including:

  • Cisco CSR 1000V – deliver comprehensive WAN gateway and network services functions into virtual and cloud environments.
  • Cisco SD-WAN – connect any user, to any application, across any cloud.
  • CloudGenix SD-WAN – connect sites and applications over any WAN transport with performance, security and compliance managed with business-centric policies.
  • Fortinet Firewall – provision security infrastructure via security controls within a virtual infrastructure.
  • Fortinet SD-WAN – includes best-of-breed firewall security, advanced routing and WAN optimization capabilities.
  • Juniper Networks Firewall – scalable, secure protection across private, public and hybrid clouds.
  • Palo Alto Firewall – protect private and public cloud deployments with segmentation and threat prevention.
  • Versa SD-WAN – centralized provisioning, management and policy control protect against Internet and branch cyber threats.

Network Edge facilitates VNF selection and deployment

VNFs from these leading vendors are available via Network Edge, a digital marketplace that facilitates selection, configuration and activation of virtual network services in near real-time. Equinix works closely with each of the vendors to ensure smooth deployment of these functions on Platform Equinix, the world’s largest global platform of interconnected data centers and business ecosystems. Deployment is simple:

  1. Select the appropriate network service and vendor to match your network need.
  2. Choose the licensing model—bring your own or pay-as-you-go subscription.
  3. Configure the service.
  4. Deploy the service in the desired Equinix metro location.
  5. Establish connections to corporate data centers, cloud providers, network providers, branch offices or other global Equinix services.

Deployment of VNFs on Platform Equinix further simplifies network management and operations by:

  • Supporting centralized design, deployment and management of widely-deployed network services.
  • Leveraging the high-availability capabilities of Platform Equinix to ensure optimum network performance.
  • Allowing businesses to take advantage of the private connectivity, performance and security capabilities of Platform Equinix without the need to deploy hardware in Equinix colocation centers.

Network Edge on Platform Equinix supports a multi-vendor networking environment by giving architects flexibility in selecting and deploying the required network services to efficiently meet evolving enterprise business needs. Network architects interested in exploring a best-of-breed, multi-vendor approach to VNF selection and deployment can get hands-on experience by registering for the free trial today.

Amit Srivastava
Amit Srivastava Director of Network Operations, Equinix