As an increasing number of organisations migrate to the cloud, the gap between the needs and expectations of the business and IT’s ability to deliver is growing, writes Wimpie van Rensburg, country manager: sub Saharan Africa at Riverbed Technology.
With apps, data and users scattered across branch offices and other remote locations, IT is struggling to deliver the application performance businesses need to remain productive. In fact, the Riverbed Global Application Performance Survey 2015 shows that while 98% of executives believe that enterprise application performance is critical to achieving optimal business performance, 89 per cent say poor performance of enterprise applications negatively impacts their productivity on a regular basis.
So what is the cause of this performance gap and how can businesses close it? Chances are IT is wrestling with a complex, inflexible WAN – a wide area computer network, to interconnect their diverse application workloads to their distributed workforce. In fact, the WAN is likely the IT infrastructure’s weakest link, and it’s preventing it from meeting the dynamic demands of the modern enterprise.
Business is speeding up, and IT needs to keep pace. Organisations need SD-WAN (software-defined wide area networking), and here’s why.
Today’s network challenges
Driven by the rapid globalisation of the business world, the WAN is becoming more and more dispersed every day. Remote workers are scattered across the globe — in branch offices, construction sites and coffee shops, to name just a few — and they all demand flawless network performance to stay productive.
What’s more, end users are depending on an ever-expanding catalogue of applications, some of them cloud based. And if the apps don’t work, neither do your end users. Many of them are even adopting independent apps which are not explicitly approved by the organisation — a phenomenon called “shadow IT”– in order to get work done in a timely manner.
As a result, today’s networks are more unruly than ever. Businesses need a new day in networking, and they need it now. But why?
The trouble with traditional MPLS WANs
Old-school WANs are having a hard time meeting the demands of the modern business. A network based on MPLS links can be expensive but also time-consuming. Traditional MPLS networks rely on operation paradigms that were defined more than 15 years ago at a time were the pace of changes was a matter of months not a matter of days.
The trouble with hybrid WANs
Many organisation are today considering reducing the costs of MPLS based networks using more affordable Internet links to create a hybrid WAN. But in many cases, what you save in costs you sacrifice in security and control.
Moreover, a significant rise in encryption and cloud technologies can cut into network visibility, making it next to impossible to know when and where a performance problem is occurring.
All the while, the pressure is mounting on IT, and the business is expecting you to act at the drop of a hat:
* They need you to deploy a new app that will totally change your traffic profile (and you need to maintain control), today
* They need you to provision a new branch office on the other side of the world with the right apps and data, and make sure mission-critical apps are performing flawlessly for all users no matter what, today
The list goes on. But unfortunately, the state of your network has you handcuffed. And this is where SD-WAN comes in.
What SD-WAN can do for businesses
To put it simply, SD-WAN allows businesses to control their network from a single, easy-to-use, intuitive command centre. At its core, SD-WAN enables them to make on-the-fly adjustments to network performance and application delivery, in order to meet the businesses ever-changing needs.
By leveraging software-defined networking (SDN) principles, designed to make networks more flexible and agile, SD-WAN enables organisations to direct traffic and deploy network services across a WAN from a centralised location — without any mess or hassle. Instead of the old router-based model, which required IT managers to make intensive CLI-based code changes to routers, SD-WAN allows network services and policies to be assigned to different locations, users, and even apps — all with just a few clicks.
What’s more, an app-centric SD-WAN will automatically identify the applications in the organisation’s network and group them into logical categories based on business criticality, and even apply network-service policies to those categories based on built-in best practices.
These benefits offer IT a broad range of possibilities. Organisations can automatically route voice traffic to their highest-quality network paths. They can quickly segregate employee traffic from that of partners and customers. They can send recreational Internet traffic through the most rigorous firewalls. And more. And IT can do it all simply and centrally, without breaking a sweat.
All in all, SD-WAN makes networks more flexible and agile than ever, which, in turn, allows you to meet business needs efficiently and effectively.