CSPs add value to SD-WAN by achieving full QoE visibility
Quality of experience (QoE) has long been evasive for communications service providers (CSPs), especially when it comes to ensuring that the quality of service they provide matches the QoE users are subjected to, writes Michael Rezek, the vice president of business development and strategic partnerships at Accedian.
For CSPs, the challenge with achieving, and maintaining, good QoE lies in visibility. CSPs simply can’t see what’s happening outside of the confines of the wide area network (WAN) edge and so are left blind to the problems that may be affecting users outside these confines. In fact, WAN performance indicators may all be green but that’s not to say that users aren’t experiencing degradations.
In a world where there is an unquenchable thirst for continuously improving QoE and user experience (UX), what can CSPs do to ensure full QoE visibility?
SD-WAN, the good and the bad
User experience is one of CSPs’ primary concerns when it comes to network management. The increased network complexity as a result of the emergence of virtualisation and cloud-native applications means the challenge of assuring all parts of the network has never been more difficult. This complexity is worsened still by users’ constant demand for more data, more bandwidth and a seamless experience.
To answer this need for more network resources, many enterprises are turning to software defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). SD-WAN seeks to move a lot of the network control to the cloud by using a software approach. In doing so, enterprises can stand to benefit in several ways: more bandwidth, greater flexibility to scale resources up or down according to organisational needs, and reduced cost by taking away the burden of proprietary hardware or fixed circuits.
But while this brings significant benefits to the enterprise, SD-WAN actually makes things more difficult for the CSPs already struggling to keep up with QoE. Moving connectivity into the cloud means existing monitoring and performance assurance tools are unable to monitor what happens beyond their own network edge. Indeed, the solutions offered by SD-WAN vendors fail to offer the all-critical visibility into network underlay, end-user application QoE and the root cause of application performance degradation. As more enterprise applications run on SD-WAN overlays, how can CSPs assure what is beyond their existing MPLS networks, and correlate events/issues to ensure any application or network problems are being identified?
Nothing without end-to-end
The solution is simple, it lies in end-to-end performance assurance management. If CSPs are to embrace emerging technologies and approaches such as SD-WAN, they must ensure that their monitoring tools mirror the requirements of today’ complex networks. If SD-WAN is to become an opportunity and not a problem for CSPs, it’s critical that their performance assurance tools go beyond the confines of their MPLS or carrier ethernet (CE) networks, and beyond the overlay monitoring services offered by SD-WAN vendors.
In practice, this implies a performance assurance management tool that is able to monitor the network end-to-end, from layers 1 to 7 of the open systems interconnection (OSI) model. This network and application performance management (N/APM) tool is critical to bridging the existing visibility gap between the ‘media’ layers – layers 1-3 and the ‘host’ layers – layers 4-7. This means that all enterprise applications running on an SD-WAN can still be monitored in the same way that the physical layer is, allowing CSPs to detect application as well as network degradations. But advanced N/APM tools go beyond simply monitoring, they are able to identify issues by building a profile of the network and application, what it is doing, and how it is being experienced by the end-user.
This unification of network and application performance assurance provides IT and CSP teams with a single source of truth. It helps to remove the silos created by having different teams monitor different parts of the network or application chain. Through this single platform, network operations, development, and business line owners can understand the interactions between infrastructure, application and user experience. What’s more, this holistic view provides CSPs with the opportunity to go beyond mere QoS and towards achieving, real-time full QoE visibility across the entire network chain.
SD-WAN, an opportunity not a problem
There’s no doubt that CSPs may find the arrival of SD-WAN somewhat daunting. The arrival of a virtual, cloud-based network could mean bad news for CSPs whose revenue are derived primarily from their existing MPLS and CE networks. SD-WAN also increases network complexity and as a result, makes the job of ensuring QoE, a tough one. But SD-WAN doesn’t need to be a headache for CSPs. With the right performance management tools that span both the network and application layers, it’ll be no time before CSPs can meet the QoE demands of users, even in an SD-WAN environment.
The author of this blog is Michael Rezek, vice president of business development and strategic partnerships at Accedian