When mid-market CIOs were surveyed about the critical issues facing their organizations, ensuring application availability and performance consistently rank in the top three, right along with assuring information security. After all, what is the purpose of having a network other than enabling users to do their jobs?
Workers who rely on access to customer data, CRM, workflows and POS applications cannot be productive if the network supporting these applications doesn’t perform. Here at Nitel we have dozens of workers who rely on our core operating support system to do their jobs. When response is slow, or screens take a while to refresh, we all hear about it!
Let’s start by identifying some questions partners might ask business customers to help discover if they are experiencing application performance challenges.
Q: To what extent are your workers relying on SaaS applications like, Salesforce, Office365, etc. in their day-to-day processes? Is SaaS use growing?
Why is this question relevant? While traditional MPLS or some dedicated Internet circuits provide QoS to prioritize the traffic of important applications, the continued adoption of SaaS and public cloud applications increases the importance and complexity of prioritizing the traffic that matters. Applications and workloads continue to be migrated to the cloud, adding pressure on the network and degrading application performance at branch locations.
Q: Do you have workers and/or customers accessing non-business applications like Netflix, Facebook, You Tube, etc.… at your branch locations?
Why does this matter to IT leaders? Carrying branch office traffic destined for the public Internet, like Netflix or Facebook, over MPLS network to a centralized hub and/or firewall is a poor use of costly MPLS resources and can congest the MPLS circuit, degrading performance of all applications traversing the circuit. Even if traffic is well prioritized, the user experience can suffer. And customers sitting in a waiting room don’t like it when their videos buffer.
So, what are some of the options available to IT leaders to assure application performance across the network?
If bandwidth is the challenge, one solution is to simply upgrade their current network. We see many customers using single or bonded T1s, running MPLS, looking to increase their circuit bandwidth to 10 Mbps, 20 Mbps, or more. However, these options can be costly, disruptive and time-consuming. They also may require an upgrade a replacement of the CPE. Additionally, they don’t add any resilience since they are still reliant on a single connection.
Another way is to add a broadband Internet connection to handle a subset of the traffic. For example, we see customers who install a broadband Internet connection at each store location to serve as an MPLS back up and off load customer Wi-Fi traffic.
While these approaches can alleviate pressure on the MPLS network, they only go so far. Deciding which applications to route on which path is a static configuration choice. Sure, failover from one circuit to another can be configured, but this is tricky. Will high priority applications get priority while the network is in failover mode? Are security policies being enforced when failover occurs? If the primary circuit is bouncy, how well does the failover perform? Without sophisticated network management tools, you really don’t know if the problem has truly been solved.
Let’s Talk About an SD-WAN Solution
Using SD-WAN as a solution to improve application performance typically starts by adding Internet connection to the existing network. This could include a commercial grade dedicated Internet connection but more often it’s a broadband connection that offers a lot of bandwidth at a low monthly price point.
So, what makes the SD-WAN solution so great? First, the SD-WAN solution allows for full utilization of the multiple circuits at each network location. Because the SD-WAN creates a single virtual connection, all the bandwidth may be used across both connections, allowing the business to get the most out of the bandwidth they are paying for at each site.
Second, advanced SD-WAN solutions give IT leaders the ability to set routing and traffic shaping policies at the application level. The business determines which applications are a priority, as well as the right policy for using the multiple access links for each application. The SD-WAN constantly checks the performance of each access link and based on the policies established for each application, routes the traffic over the “best” path. This ensures that high priority applications perform, and users get the experience they expect.
Finally, SD-WAN simplifies management of the network. An advanced SD-WAN solution provides an analytics and reporting platform that gives the IT leader clear visibility into network and application performance. It may even provide the ability to create customized reports, schedule them, and push them to any e-mail or distribution list.
In short, an advanced SD-WAN solution gives IT leaders the tools they need to ensure application availability and performance for users across the network.
It is important to start the discovery process by understanding the challenges facing business IT teams and assessing whether application performance is near the top of an IT leader’s list. The questions you ask can uncover business challenges and lead to discovery of potential solutions. While there are a variety of options to choose from, an advanced SD-WAN can offer an efficient, customizable solution.
Check out the rest of the Guys in Orange videos to learn to learn more on the latest trends.