Hughes and BT launch SD-WAN services

31 October 2017

Dan Thornton, Hughes’ head of solution development, says many of the algorithms the firm has used have come from its expertise in satellite networking.

Dan Thornton, Hughes’ head of solution development, says many of the algorithms the firm has used have come from its expertise in satellite networking.

Hughes Europe and BT have entered the SD-WAN arena with two new platforms that are both aimed at supporting distributed enterprises with their digital transformations.

Hughes Europe is part of US-based satellite and managed network services provider, Hughes Network Systems. Its managed SD-WAN service leverages a range of in-house technologies that are designed to transform ordinary broadband connections into enterprise-grade high-performance WANs.

According to Dan Thornton, head of solution development at Hughes Europe, the granularity of the platform’s ActiveQoS system and support for real-time and mission critical apps, such as VoIP, are key differentiators. “Most SD-WAN solutions require you to describe the applications which need high priority. Ours does this based on the network needs of the application and it works even if the application is encrypted.”

Thornton goes on to explain that most networks will look at the speed of a line, such as an ADSL connection, and that organisations will then build their templates around that speed. “But if the speed of the line comes down or goes up, the templates don’t adjust when using other SD-WAN platforms. We automatically adjust throughput based on the capabilities of the line at any given time so that you get consistent delivery of services across the network. That’s fairly unique to Hughes.”

Another platform feature is ActivePath. This uses algorithms and techniques that exploit the use of multiple network paths. “The algorithms that we have developed are really our USP in terms of the way we dynamically organise things,” says Thornton. “A lot of the algorithms have come from our history of satellite networking. In satellite, you have lower speed capability lines that have to carry delay-sensitive traffic across them, and there’s a lot of jitter and latency in some aspects. We have taken all our knowledge in optimising those types of links, and built it into a terrestrial-based platform.”

BT says its new service also features dynamic routing. According to the telco, Agile Connect uses SDN on a national or global scale to dynamically determine the most effective path for traffic to take across a customer’s WAN. It says this enables users to meet bandwidth demand by making better use of what were previously backup connections.

Announced in late September, Agile Connect was built using technologies from BT and Nuage Networks, the SDN specialist that is now part of Nokia. It includes BT’s controller infrastructure hosted on the internet and on its MPLS network, as well as the company’s MPLS internet gateways to offer cloud-based inter-connectivity.

Agile Connect is delivered as a single box located on the edge of a customer’s network, with further services bolted-on as additional devices. In the future, BT says the service will support VNF (virtual network functions), with new services deployed virtually to the box, thereby negating the need to install multiple devices.