Increasing business agility with the new hybrid WAN
By Taj ElKhayat, Regional Vice President, Middle East and Africa at Riverbed Technology
In the past, most applications were housed on-premises and the WAN was a well-defined and predictable environment. This is no longer the case, as nowadays, the WAN is continually changing and both the applications and architecture that it supports are becoming increasingly challenging to maintain. With more and more applications transitioning to the cloud – public, private or SaaS – the cloud has become an essential element of enterprise architecture as many organisations embark on a digital transformation strategy. Today, 85% of IT leaders feel that they have a timeframe of just two years to adopt new technologies, or risk falling behind.
Consequently, IT now has to manage an increasing number of on-premises and cloud-based applications. The growing number of apps combined with the escalating demand for video and rich-media means that the public Internet is now often used along with MPLS to address enterprises’ rapidly increasing needs for bandwidth. This certainly has cost benefits. However, it can impact IT’s ability to have visibility or understanding of application performance. Changes to the WAN have a negative impact on app performance and businesses must find new approaches to tackle this and optimize app performance and reliability.
As a result, the WAN is evolving toward a hybrid mix that combines the performance of on-premises hardware with the agility and elasticity of cloud based network functions. As enterprises are becoming hybrid, the shape of the network itself is seeing significant changes. The underlying networks are getting more diverse in terms of performance and security.
Controlling the edge of the network
Business now takes place at the edge of the network perimeter – at the branch, at home, from remote locations or on the road. Availability and speed are the biggest priority and keeping business applications running in remote and branch office locations can address this. However, it’s important to note that in the new hybrid WAN, direct Internet access can actually put businesses’ sensitive data at risk from cyber-attacks. Whilst the cloud offers agility and cost-efficiency, the performance is often less than ideal for the end-user and is more difficult for IT to control and optimise. Enterprises can tackle this by looking for solutions which allow them to unify IT management from one central location, such as the data centre or the cloud, all the way to the edge. Regardless of where applications are hosted, IT must be able to ensure optimal performance and secure availability.
Agility and application performance are key WAN requirements
In today’s increasingly digital world, application performance is at the heart of business productivity. Applications can help facilitate business functions, ranging from manufacturing, to processing sales. They also help us communicate and collaborate. However, as we rely on applications more and more, this means that the end-user has high expectations around performance levels.
IT must be able to make these applications available to users and respond to business needs as quickly as possible. Whether this requires setting up a new branch office or making a new SaaS application available to employees, agility is key. IT must be able to deploy sites, rollout applications and handle change management, all whilst ensuring that application performance runs seamlessly.
Tackling application complexity with operational development
Applications are now becoming richer and more complex as the majority become encrypted. Delivered from the data centre, the cloud and the edge, users are accessing them from everywhere. The edge is fast becoming the centre of communication for enterprise and IT must now consider solutions that automate application delivery over the WAN and facilitate intelligence, performance and security requirements as well as abstracting communication resources. This requires automated systems and orchestration which can support these abstractions and align IT with the wider business needs.
Maximise productivity by optimize application performance
Poor application performance can have significant negative impact on a business, affecting not only employee productivity, but also customer satisfaction. Today’s hybrid WAN has introduced new challenges. As bandwidth is now more cost-effective and readily available, the rapid adoption of SaaS and cloud applications means that it can be difficult for IT to keep up with who is using what apps. This in turn leads to poor visibility of end-user experience and an inability to manage infrastructure and application performance.
Encryption can hide application traffic and further obscure the distinction between applications. This means that IT now requires visibility beyond encryption to understand the specific applications accessed by various users. Once this is achieved, they can prioritise and direct application traffic. This can reduce the number of transactions across the WAN for faster application performance and less burden on communication lines.
Harnessing unification and simplification
In order to meet the changing agility requirements of the enterprise, IT will need solutions which will simplify operations across their hybrid network from the data centre or cloud to the LAN or across the hybrid WAN to users across multiple locations. Therefore, to uphold future agility requirements, it will become critical for enterprises to have the ability to abstract and virtualise communication resources between users and data, no matter where they are.
Whilst software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions are being developed to satisfy these requirements, holistic solutions will unify control across networks, the cloud and mobile workers. SD-WAN, when coupled with WAN optimisation, will significantly improve performance and infrastructure efficiencies.