This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

In this era of digitization, multimedia and cloud, the network
needs to evolve from connectivity to business continuity.

The topic of network evolution is certainly hot right now. It’s something the networking industry has been discussing for the better part of two decades. In the past, however, when it came to the network IT leaders had an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. Even though the network didn’t run optimally, it wasn’t really hurting the business, so it stayed as it was.

But today in this era of cloud services, mobility and converged networks, traditional networks are no longer adequate. The network architecture currently in place is static in nature and highly under utilized. ZK Research estimates that traditional networks have an average utilization rate of 25 to 35%. What’s worse is that it’s actually hurting the performance of real-time, cloud and bandwidth intensive applications. If IT is ever to achieve the level of agility and dynamism required to enable businesses to become digital organizations, the network must now evolve.

Sonus Networks has a network-as-a-service product called NaaS IQ — which came to it through the acquisition of Treq Labs — that makes the network an agile, tunable resource so businesses can ensure that applications are always performing optimally. The platform simplifies and automates network operations through a policy-driven architecture with centralized control of both resources and orchestration capabilities.

Shifting to a network-as-a-service model enables IT managers to use business policies to control the network. For example, a business may perform backups over the WAN. During the day, NaaS IQ would intelligently orchestrate a policy that limits the amount of bandwidth being used for the backup. Then, after business hours the backup program can run unimpeded.

Using NaaS IQ for video conferencing would be another example. Because of the high performance requirements of video, many businesses nail-up bandwidth to be used only for video purposes. While this helps with performance, it’s obviously a huge waste of money as the network sits idle much of the time. NaaS IQ could interface with the video system and create a dedicated pipe for the call, then tearing it down afterwards.

Another advantage of solutions like NaaS IQ is that it can eliminate dependence on MPLS. While I agree that a single Internet connection will never outperform an MPLS circuit, I do believe that multiple Internet connections with the proper intelligence to optimize flows and route traffic can give performance that is equal to or better than MPLS.

Beyond Application Performance

There are significant cost savings to be had with NaaS IQ. For example, State Street Bank, one of the leading financial services firms, was using 22 Gigabit MPLS WAN links to connect eight branches with minimal redundancy. In addition to putting the business at risk with the low redundancy capabilities, network utilization was a paltry 20%.

While this low utilization may seem strange, it’s common in the networking industry. Typically, businesses will provision for peak utilization and even add a little more for overhead. However, peak utilization only happens a few times a year, resulting in a network that sits idle most of the time.

With the deployment of NaaS IQ, State Street migrated away from MPLS to a carrier Ethernet and fiber network. More importantly, it was able to improve the quality of experience while simultaneously improving throughput and lowering latency. State Street used NaaS IQ to reconfigure all of the WAN links through a Web interface. The company provisioned optimized application flows and segregated traffic based on type. Also, State Street implemented dynamic application SLAs to ensure that latency sensitive and business critical applications were prioritized.

The result of the NaaS IQ-based network was State Street was able to run all of its branch traffic on seven Ethernet and fiber connections instead of the 22 MPLS circuits. Network utilization jumped from 20 to 90% ensuring no wasted bandwidth. From a cost perspective, State Street cut its network spending by 75%.

Further, State Street eliminated all single points of failure on the connections to and from the data center, which removes much of the risk of running applications across multiple data centers.

Traditional architectures use the network for business connectivity. In this era of digitization, multimedia and cloud, the network needs to evolve from connectivity to business continuity. For an organization like State Street, the network is the business, and continuous operations are mandatory. The deployment of something like NaaS IQ enables organizations to have a network that is agile and optimizes application performance without breaking the bank.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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