Dr. Cahit Akin, is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Mushroom Networks, a privately held company based in San Diego, California, providing broadband products and solutions for a range of Internet applications.
Multi-office organizations can’t compete at their peak without high performance and highly reliable IP connectivity that connects their branch offices to their private, public and hybrid clouds. The new generation of applications and services that powers various functions within the multi-office organization, heavily depend on the IP connectivity infrastructure between offices as well as connectivity to the rest of the world.
Performance, reliability and cost are the parameters that directly affect IP connectivity and architecture decisions of the IP department, however, unlike earlier corporate networks, today’s enterprise networks are living and breathing organisms that change, fluctuate and have complicated interactions with the flows filling the networks. IT departments need to make sense of the complex system and manage it accordingly, in order to ensure the service level agreements (SLAs) are delivered to their constituency - the employees of the company.
WAN orchestration is the technique that enables just that - an intelligence layer that sits on top of the WAN network as an overlay. This is a powerful concept to facilitate the understanding, re-engineering and management of the enterprise WAN networks. WAN orchestration resides either in a physical network appliance or a virtual machine that runs the WAN orchestration software, that can accomplish the synthesis, management and monitoring of WAN networks.
Understanding the network
WAN orchestration refers to the intelligence layer that can measure and make-sense-of the various characteristics of the WAN resources. The key capability to look for in this type of functionality is to cover important parameters that will be of high value in managing the network.
Some “must have” parameters include capacity, loss-rate, latency and jitter both as instantaneous and time series formats. Depending on the implementation there will be various other parameters and derivative parameters that are sniffed actively or passively from the network by the WAN orchestrator.
Managing the network
Today’s WAN orchestrators can accomplish sophisticated network functions beyond simple static traffic policing. Some examples include Broadband Bonding, dynamic flow mapping, flow based traffic grooming, Elastic IP address management and various advanced Quality of Service functions. All these network functions are mostly geared toward improving WAN performance and reliability and as a result provide better end-user experience.
Consequently, these network functions will also have a direct impact on the cost structure of the WAN network as more can be accomplish with same set of WAN links or same performance metrics can be achieved with fewer or less expensive WAN links, compared to a legacy system that lacks a WAN orchestration capability.
Monitoring the network
Collecting large sets of data and intelligence from live networks, without interfering with the data flows, is crucial. However, all that intelligence is only valuable if put to good use.
More specifically, the collected data, either as instantaneous data alerts or flags as a function of big data analysis of the collected data need to be presented to the IT team in a consumable and actionable manner.
There are a variety of levels of human involvement that can be designed into taking actions as a result of the monitoring. The WAN orchestrator tools can minimize the human involvement, as many of the analysis and distillation can be converted into automated actions.
We are entering a new era of branch office and cloud connectivity where a single static WAN resource will not be able to provide the service levels that organizations demand from their networks. The promise of WAN orchestration solutions are simple: One needs to be able to measure, correlate and understand network data to be able to take or automate actions for intelligent WAN management.
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