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AI World Conference & Expo · Boston, MA · December 11-13, 2017

Posts Tagged ‘Broadband WAN’

The rise of cloud applications has been well documented on this site and others.  The cloud era kicked off with a handful of SaaS applications, such as ERP, CRM and HR systems. Today, businesses are buying almost everything from the cloud from compute services, contact center software, unified communications to anything else you can think of. These apps and services may look somewhat unrelated, but they all have one thing in common, they are highly dependent on the network to perform properly.

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Cyber security remains a hot topic with nearly every IT and business leader that I speak with. In particular, there seems to be an intensified focus on network security. Security is typically deployed in layers (network, compute and application), and I expect that model to continue in the short-term, but given the fact that many of the building blocks of digitization, such as IoT and the cloud, are network-centric, there should be a stronger focus on leveraging the network and network-based security to protect the organization.

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Software defined WANs (SD-WANs) have gained market momentum so quickly because their value proposition is multi-faceted. Some enterprises have looked to SD-WAN as a way to dramatically lower network transport costs, while others are building SD-WANs to automate network operations. One of the more common use-cases I have seen is to shift toward an “active-active” architecture.

Active-Active WAN Architecture

Historically, WANs are built on the concept of “active-passive”, where a branch can be connected using two or more links, but only the primary link is active and passing traffic.  In this scenario, the backup connection only becomes active in the event the primary connection fails. While this might seem sensible, it’s highly inefficient as enterprises are paying for far more bandwidth than they are actually leveraging. This inefficient architectural design is driving increased interest in active-active configurations.

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SD-WANs have garnered a tremendous amount of interest from companies both large and small as they can significantly lower the costs and complexity of running a WAN. As businesses migrate applications to the cloud, they are increasingly embracing the cost advantages of broadband connectivity to connect users to applications. This is being driven not only by the high cost of private WAN circuits, but because backhauling applications’ traffic to the data center is negatively impacting application performance, resulting in frustrated users and sub-optimal productivity. The combination of high costs and poor performance seem like a perfect recipe for market disruption.

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When it comes to WAN architecture, there has been a debate that has raged on for decades.  Hub-and-spoke or fully distributed mesh, which is better?  Hub-and-spoke networks are certainly simpler to design and manage, but the downside is that all branch traffic needs to be backhauled through a central location. Consider a U.S.-based company with a branch office in Japan where a user is trying to access a local website. The traffic would need to go from the branch, back to the U.S., back to Japan, and then back to the U.S., only to be sent off to Japan yet again. This clearly represents an enormous waste of bandwidth and resource, not to mention impaired user productivity.

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It’s safe to say that no one likes change. It makes us uncomfortable and puts us in positions that we are not familiar with. This is certainly true in our personal lives, but it’s also true in our jobs. It seems every time there is some kind of major technology shift everything changes, and IT needs to adapt, adopt new best practices, and develop new skills. Think back to the transition from mainframes to PC computing, TDM voice to VoIP, and physical servers to virtualization. Each of these seismic shifts required IT organizations to completely change the way they operate.

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