Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tallac Networks - Wireless SDN

A week or so ago I received a briefing on Tallac Networks wireless SDN solution. I have been interested in what Tallac was doing in this space since they started. Matthew Davy gave me the briefing. And yes that is the same Matthew Davy from Packet Pushers Episode 40. I was fortunate enough to have an introduction to openflow around the same time as that podcast, maybe sooner, by Matt when he was at IU. Matt had given a talk about a week or so before to members of the state higher edu network, I was unable to attend due to work schedule, there was a stream which didn't work for me. But it was a good thing since Matt spent most of the time doing a basic SDN intro. The room was not very familiar with it.

On to the meat of it. 

Tallac Networks has two major focus:
  • Wireless SDN
  • SDN Training
They are a major provider of SDN training materials. The training is what provides the cash for the wireless SDN work. Instead of going after major VC funding and then just burning through it.

Their target market is a Managed Service Provider. They have a AWS-Cloud based portal which can be customized for the MSP, then down to the MSP clients. Currently the AP model is a pretty high end 3x3 (I believe) model white box unit. They do have plans for other models. But currently it is a dual radio 3 stream unit. What runs on the ap is what makes the solution:

That is right, the Tallac SDM agent has two components, SDM Cloud Service and an OpenFlow Agent. 
  • SDM Cloud Service is the management piece that talks to the cloud service. This is the "traditional" management agent, which ssid, traffic info, radio control etc is sent back and forth from the cloud management instance. 
  • OpenFlow Agent, does that mean?? Yes it does. You can attached the AP to an OpenFlow controller (OpenDayLight,Floodlight,etc) and push OpenFlow rules down onto the hardware. I am told that the Openflow controller is/can be separate from the SDM Cloud Service. But what if I'm not ready to use the OpenFlow component? That is ok, too.
Part of the Tallac API/Cloud service is once a site is setup in the portal, meaning Address/Billing info. The hardware can/is ordered through the portal and then is shipped direct from the factory (White box hardware manufacturer) to the site. The AP comes with the Agent loaded and it's identifiers are attached to the site in the portal. This means when the unit is plugged in and talks to the cloud service, it gets attached to the site without user intervention. 

Another feature is an on-demand  network push. Where a SSID & network policy get instantiated based on demand for that network. So if I have a unit at my house which I have configured a corp SSID with a ssl vpn back to the office, when I leave the SSID and ssl vpn get removed from the unit, after the timeout. So corp SSID is not broadcasting at my house when not corporate devices are there. When a device returns and "probes" for that SSID , the policy comes back onto the device. This could be applied inside an enterprise as well.

A list of their features is here:

A bigger look at the solution stack is here:
The Orchestration API is what brings the pieces together. This allows the multi-tenancy, customization of the end-user interface, etc. Information from other systems can be pulled into the orchestration api to drive policy. The API is used to drive the vNET Manager and NFV components.

This is a basic overview of how Tallac is creating SDN Wireless. Why this is cool is that this solution can function like any other wireless solution out in the market. But they have the added bonus including in the api's and openflow feature that can be used/experimented with will little impact to the operation of the network.

One last note, Matt mention the possibility of a SDN starter kit that they are working on. I think that it is an excellent idea, one that I hope they do release here shortly. I believe in the coming months we will hear more about the work that Tallac is doing in this space.

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