Optimising digital experiences in a new world of SD-WAN
In today’s SaaS and cloud-centric world, characterised by a snowballing amount of associated dependencies and third-party, the enterprise WAN is not only taking on a new shape but ,it’s also being stretched beyond recognition. In its place, the internet is now directly and exclusively carrying a significant if not majority share of all enterprise traffic, says Mike Hicks, principal solutions analyst, Cisco ThousandEyes.
In response to this, businesses are making the move to an Internet-centric, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). In many ways, SD-WAN has become the hot topic of networking over the past few years. According to recent data, the SD-WAN tools and software market is predicted to jump to $4.6 billion by 2023 (€3.92 billion) as enterprises increasingly move their IT and networking services to cloud infrastructure.
To ensure that SD-WAN delivers on business expectations, a new way of looking at IT monitoring is required, encompassing both network visibility and application performance.
WAN then and now
Traditional WAN networks were architected with a centralised workforce leveraging centrally hosted applications in mind. Once a connection was established, the WAN network path was essentially fixed. With its origins dating back to the 90s, WAN technology has provided numerous benefits for businesses including centralising IT infrastructure, boosting privacy and increasing bandwidth. However, in today’s business world, where customers and employees are often scattered all over the globe, a standard WAN network’s lack of flexibility limits enterprises’ ability to maximise traffic and resource efficiency. In short, a standard WAN is likely to fall short in delivering on the performance and productivity expectations of many businesses.
Swapping WAN for SD-WAN
Designed for interconnection with cloud and externally hosted services, adopting a SD-WAN that is architected for agility, plays a critical role in making enterprise networks cloud-ready, more cost-efficient and better suited to delivering optimised digital experiences to customers and employees at all locations.
With SD-WAN, the network overlay is virtualised. This creates a customisable, flexible network infrastructure that can respond and be adapted to an organisation’s changing needs.
With all that agility comes an increased dependence on third-party applications and services. The more external providers a network relies on, the more complexities and blind spots are created. Add to that the inherent unpredictability of the Internet and a significant lack of visibility into these services can cause havoc for a business’ IT teams, affecting the user experience, and impacting productivity. To assure the digital experiences that both employees and customers require, it’s critical to gain end-to-end visibility into the service delivery chain, including any third-party dependencies you’ll be relying on i.e. the cloud and Internet networks to power your applications and services over SD-WAN.
Comprehensive visibility for optimum SD-WAN performance
Connectivity is the focus when it comes to the SD-WAN fabric and quality of service for SaaS apps and cloud services delivered to remote connections and global offices.
Uninterrupted connectivity and application performance hinges on visibility into the networks you own and the ones you don’t i.e. the cloud and internet networks that are now powering your SD-WAN. To achieve this synthetic monitoring plays a critical role, using scripts to emulate the expected workflow and path that an end-user would take when using an application, no matter how remote. Paired with network pathing around routing visibility, modern synthetics provide an understanding of how users experience an application and the deeper perspective required to see the characteristics of an application’s underlying network.
SD-WAN may be a big leap for many businesses but it is ultimately one of the most consequential IT changes enterprises that are adapting to new ways of working and servicing customers can make.
For app performance and digital experiences to be always on and always performing in SD-WAN, IT teams will need end-to-end visibility and a correlated view between network and application performance for a complete picture of end-user SaaS and app performance to spot and escalate any performance issues quickly.
So, what’s next for SD-WAN? As vaccine rollouts continue and restrictions ease, the great move to hybrid work is well underway. Looking ahead, we expect office-based work to be replaced with a blended model where some employees return to the workplace and others continue to work from home. As such, a reliance on cloud and Internet-centric networks will only heighten in order to make this new fused work strategy a reality.
As employees and customers connect to business resources in more diverse ways via VPNs, home laptops and mobile devices SD-WAN’s impact and importance as the fabric that ties it all together can’t be ignored. Importantly, neither can the end-to-end insights that will enable enterprises to see and resolve any performance issues, no matter where they may be happening in the corporate network.
The author is Mike Hicks, principal solutions analyst, Cisco ThousandEyes