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Cloud provider UOL adopts Embrane's software-defined network services

UOL will offer software-defined network services in its public cloud with Embrane's Heleos software.

Brazilian service provider UOL has adopted Embrane's Heleos software as the Layer 4-7 services platform offered in its public cloud. Heleos will provide UOL's cloud customers with software-defined network services, including load balancing, firewalls and VPNs.

Eduardo Maldonado, UOL's Chief Technology Officer, said he initially considered Embrane for Layer 4-7 services because of its integration into Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), which UOL is in the process of adopting. But after testing Heleos, he was also pleased with the flexibility and agility of Embrane's software-defined network services, as well as the support the vendor offered. Specifically, Embrane's software creates distributed virtual appliances, where the underlying virtual machines are treated as an abstracted pool of resources. Heleos draws on that pool of virtual machines (VMs) to power its services, rather than requiring administrators to spin VMs up and down for each service instance.

"It's very easy to configure and deploy," Maldonado said. "You don't have to deploy a specific set of virtual machines [for] that [virtual] appliance. We needed something that would fit in a simple way. We cannot afford to make modifications in our public environment in order to get F5 Networks or a physical box inserted."

Maldonado's engineers ran into some issues with Heleos during testing when integrating Embrane's APIs with UOL's home-grown cloud orchestration platform. When they informed Embrane, the vendor's product engineers delivered a new version within three days. "That is one of the things that impressed us," Maldonado said. "The agility of that company to put together a new product version that solved what was preventing us from automating everything in our environment."

After UOL completed its tests with Embrane, it put the software into production within its internal enterprise environment. That stage went smoothly and UOL is now rolling it out to customers. "We are just about to on-board our first customer with Embrane," Maldonado said.

"Embrane has offered us a way -- with a set of plug-ins -- to deploy [Heleos] in our orchestrator and get it up and running for a single tenant without having to change our architecture," he said. "All the other vendors we evaluated -- besides one -- would have required us to change that configuration, and that one which would not have required a change was very high-priced."

Embrane will replace the various hardware-based Layer 4-7 appliances UOL uses to deliver network services to its cloud customers today. The transition will speed the delivery of those services tremendously.

"Every time a customer asked us for [hardware-based] network services, we would usually take two weeks for implementation, because [our engineers] had to rewire everything and reconfigure the network," Maldonado said. "Now I just offer the [virtual] appliance and everything is by default connected to the network." With Embrane, UOL has shortened its time-to-service window down to one minute, he said.

Furthermore, the nature of Embrane's services is completely transparent to UOL's cloud tenants, he said. "In all senses, my customers don't realize the difference between Embrane and a physical appliance. We can offer the [isolation] that a physical appliance can offer, but in a multi-tenant environment. I can run Embrane on top of a VM and my customer … would see that piece of software as if it were a piece of hardware. The customer will see an interface for configuration and an interface for usability and ports."

Embrane's integration into UOL's technology stack will change when the provider puts Cisco's ACI into production. Maldonado doesn't expect that transition to be onerous, given that Embrane is one of Cisco's earliest partners in that architecture. "Embrane will take care of … the API integration," he said.

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