Integrating SD-WAN with existing systems using APIs

How APIs have increased our efficiency and our ability to help our clients

Coevolve’s mission is to provide agile networks for global applications. To do that, we have to not only stay on top of the newest technologies, but we also have to find ways to make sure we are using those technologies in the most efficient and effective ways possible.

Early approaches to automating SD-WAN environments were based on a command-line interface, writing scripts to automate repetitive tasks. We began running scripts like this in mid-2015. We quickly ran into a problem. It was too inefficient to have a large number of different mini scripts running in parallel and making separate calls. Almost two years ago, we finalized our move to an integration hub model and a single collector system by integrating with the SD-WAN networks we manage using APIs. Since then, APIs have increased our efficiency and our ability to help our clients address all of their needs.

Application Programming Interface

We define an API as a interface that can be used to create orchestration and automation to improve our team’s performance, both internally and for clients. By using APIs to deploy things quickly, we can extend the capabilities of SD-WAN. Mainly, we utilize APIs to make calls, pull and format data in a way that is useful to us, push configuration changes, and rapidly deploy and manage customer solutions.

There is a learning curve for traditional network operators when switching to APIs. For that reason, we look for Python and JavaScript experience when hiring new team members. An emphasis on coding means that our team of engineers can do a lot while operating in a very lean way.

APIs give us an efficient method of moving data in and out of the SD-WAN orchestration platform. They provide value-added reports and custom alerts that we can take to turn the system into new managed service opportunities for clients. Using APIs, we can expand our team’s capabilities to get more granular and specific alerts and be more responsive to customers.

How We Use APIs Internally

APIs have vastly improved our internal team’s efficiency. We use the same integration hub concept discussed above as a hook into our incident management system. Tickets are created and updated through an API-based interface, and when addressing those tickets, we use contextual data that was obtained through API calls. By integrating our systems with the SD-WAN orchestrator using APIs, we can increase our incident management system’s speed and efficiency.

How We Use APIs for Our Clients

Beyond increasing our internal team’s efficiency, we can also use APIs to create a better experience for our clients. An SD-WAN orchestrator gives us monitoring capabilities and visibility into the network, but some things we need to go above and beyond to accomplish. We can implement an API interface there to help automate that part of the system, giving us the ability to perform bulk provisioning for our customers. For example, if a network has 200 locations, traditionally engineers would have to go in and program each individually. With an API-based approach, all we have to do is fill out a form and hit ‘publish’ to provision all of those sites.

Using API interfaces , we can pull information from the SD-WAN orchestrator and utilize existing monitoring tools, extending the platform and making it more powerful. This system now accesses shared data sets, filters them, and then customizes them for each client.

One of our clients, a large organization in Australia, was concerned about what their network was being used to do. We created customized reporting at an application level to show the exact top applications at each site. The client discovered a malware attack within a day. They were able to see exactly where it was happening by the unusual traffic pattern at the location.

In another instance, we had a client that used 4G connections as a backup. However, they realized that they had unintentionally been using it heavily when they received an extraordinarily high bill. We implemented customized monitoring to notify the customer every day to know when which sites were the heaviest users of 4G connectivity. It took one of our engineers about three hours to build this script, and once it was made, we were able to deploy it for many of our clients.

By using API-based interfaces in an SD-WAN environment, we have created a middleware component that joins systems that would not typically be connected. We can populate each system with useful data and values that each needs to work. Taking a generic offering, we add value by connecting systems and backend tools. The more widely SD-WAN solutions are deployed, the more popular solutions like ours will become.