VMware unveils SD-WAN 'soft client' to boost end user connectivity

VMware is expanding its SD-WAN arsenal, unveiling today a new SD-WAN client that allows enterprises to more seamlessly manage their applications on a global scale.

What’s key about this technology is that it’s an SD-WAN “soft client”, Abe Ankumah, VMware’s VP of product for SD-WAN and secure access software edge (SASE), told Fierce. As in, a client that can sit on an end user’s device while being connected to an enterprise’s applications and resources.

By creating a soft client, Ankumah explained, VMware aims to make SD-WAN a ubiquitous technology so that enterprises don’t have to physically deploy an edge device or deploy the edge on a server.

“SD-WAN is no longer the thing that you deploy when you’re only on an enterprise’s physical footprint,” he said. “You can take SD-WAN when you travel, you can bring SD-WAN home with you.”

Once the soft client launches, it will be available on the major operating systems: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux.

“The VMware SD-WAN Client will give us a direct ‘vendor to work at home environment’ that lets us experience all of the benefits of SD-WAN without requiring any middle hardware,” said Keith Bradley, VP of information technology at Nature Fresh Farms, in a statement provided by VMware.

VMware is also adding 16 new points of presence (PoPs) to its SD-WAN and SASE footprint, mainly across the Asia-Pacific, LATAM and EMEA regions.

While these 16 PoPs are solely hosted by VMware, Ankumah noted the company has partners which host a much higher number – more than 200 PoPs worldwide.

“So we’ve increased the graphic footprint, we’ve also increased the types of services we’re delivering from these global points of presence,” he said.

One of the key use-cases for VMware’s SD-WAN client is virtual private network (VPN) replacement. Ankumah said enterprises have typically deployed a physical VPN headend in their data centers to connect many remote networks to the enterprise’s central network.

Further advancing its SD-WAN and SASE portfolio, VMware announced today it has acquired the products and IP of cloud startup Ananda Networks. VMware is leveraging Ananda’s technology to help enterprises transition to VPN alternatives, such as zero trust network access.

“Traditional remote access to corporate networks via VPN often delivers less-than-optimal application performance,” said Darren Wolner, senior director of SASE product management at Lumen, in a statement, noting that cloud and SaaS applications require infrastructure that’s specifically designed to support them.

Lumen is also chasing growth in SASE. The company in August tapped VMware and Fortinet as its initial partners for a new virtual purchase path for SASE products.

Ankumah also delved into how VMware’s private 4G/5G mobile network, which was first introduced in September, plays a role in the new SD-WAN client.

“One component [of the private mobile network] can be deployed in the so-called ‘far edge,’” he said, referring to the PoPs. “There’s another component that can be deployed in the ‘near edge,’ which is basically the customer on-premise.”

SD-WAN in turn allows the private mobile network to offer “uplink connectivity for a particular application for a particular network slice.”

“You’ve got diverse WAN connectivity options, some of them could be fiber connecting to that branch site. The other WAN choice could actually be a private mobile network,” Ankumah explained.

Additionally, VMware is upgrading its applications, including the Tanzu platform and VMware Aria Operations, to support sovereign cloud architecture. A sovereign cloud ensures all of an enterprise’s data – including metadata – resides within a particular country or region, while preventing foreign access to that data.

“We want to enable our customers and partners to support data sovereignty requirements without compromising on any kind of cloud innovation,” Ankumah concluded.