The Changing Enterprise WAN in the Era of the Cloud

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As the founder, President and CEO of Aryaka Networks, Ajit Gupta is responsible for building the Aryaka vision and guiding the company’s strategy. He has more than 25 years of experience in management, sales, support and professional services.

Ajit-Gupta-smAJIT GUPTA
Aryaka Networks

The days of a closed enterprise Wide Area Network (WAN) are coming to an end – thanks to the cloud.

Enterprise IT managers today are burdened with multiple challenges. Their workforce is more and more globally distributed, with fewer of their users than ever located at headquarters, and an increasing proportion overseas. At the same time, most applications and servers are being consolidated to a small number of data centers, further from the end users who are accessing them. And now enterprise resources increasingly are being deployed in the cloud, whether via more aggressive use of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or by leveraging Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offerings from public cloud services providers, for both public facing as well as internal-use-only private applications.

Changes Impacting Enterprise IT

The nature of those applications is changing as well with more real-time and interactive applications like voice, videoconferencing and remote desktop access. As CEO and CIO interest in leveraging public cloud computing services and SaaS increases, WAN managers need to be able to support these initiatives, while still maintaining the network security, visibility and control they and their management have come to expect. And while bandwidth demands are growing substantially each year, most IT budgets are flat or declining. Doubling the bandwidth of expensive private WAN services like MPLS every 12 – 18 months is just not an option for most enterprises. Besides, using MPLS to “trombone” all Internet access through the data center as the way for that distributed workforce to access cloud-based services will negatively effect productivity and so the adoption rate of such services.

Whatever the combination of private data centers, public cloud services and SaaS, WAN managers face a growing demand for network services that a private WAN like MPLS alone can no longer satisfy cost effectively.

In the “pre-cloud” era ­– you know, way back in the first decade of the 21st century! – the traditional approach to the challenge of optimizing application performance over the WAN has been to deploy dual-ended symmetric WAN Optimization Controller (WOC) appliances at each location on the private, usually MPLS-based WAN. While often expensive and not easy to deploy or manage, this purchased WOC solution was effective for many larger enterprises at delivering acceptable application performance in the face of private data center consolidation, and WAN Optimization has become a multi-billion dollar market.

Today’s Cloud Environment

As an ever larger percentage of enterprise application traffic is cloud-based or SaaS, and innovative networking vendors are delivering solutions which leverage Internet access while delivering predictable, high application performance, MPLS will start losing its appeal. Beyond its much higher cost per bit for bandwidth, using MPLS as the connectivity method to every SaaS and public cloud-based location an enterprise might want to access is not agile enough and doesn’t scale. Rather, a reliable, elastic global network with optimization is needed to ensure the worldwide user base can access resources and applications at optimal performance wherever they are located.

While addressing bandwidth limitations and the higher average latency on WANs admirably enough, today’s symmetric WOC solutions are not designed to operate over links where packet loss and jitter are more frequent than MPLS. Yet congestion-based performance problems resulting in high packet loss rates and variable latency are exactly what happens periodically on the Internet, and so these solutions are not actually optimized (!) to work well when using Internet links. And these issues are usually worse still for international sites accessing resources across oceans.

Cloud-based Solutions Address Network Issues

By contrast, an intelligent, cloud-based solution using a POP-based network architecture is ideally suited to addressing these issues. And smaller sites in particular will operate with a bundle of inexpensive links, using IP VPNs, rather than a single MPLS link.

Previously limited for the most part to the largest, most important locations of larger enterprises, because of the combination of the high cost of acquisition and the high ongoing costs of management and maintenance, WAN Optimization will increasingly become necessary in mid-market enterprises as well as in large enterprises’ smaller offices to improve user productivity and offer IT agility and lower computing costs.

Just as WAN Optimization appliance deployment helped deliver acceptable application performance over the private WAN and thus enabled the lower IT costs and complexity that data center consolidation offered for the largest enterprises last decade, intelligent, cloud-based solutions to application acceleration which leverage the power of the Internet ecosystem will enable similar benefits for users and IT alike to leverage SaaS and cloud computing in this decade.

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3 Comments

  1. Larry K.

    Interesting piece, Ajit. What are your thoughts on Riverbed's approach to WAN optimization?