Application-Driven WANs are the Modern Edge Network

Everyone in IT is keenly aware that the cloud and SaaS are a double-edged sword. On one side, many benefits ensue, like offloading high CapEx and lowering OpEx, and divesting of complex and bloated hardware-based infrastructure. The more challenging side lies in the ever-growing cloud applications that employees in every department are using, many of which are unknown to IT.

Cloud and SaaS apps are growing so fast that IT has a difficult time keeping up with the demand. In fact, according to Goldman Sachs, the cloud computing and platform market was just over $10 billion in 2013, and is estimated to grow to over $40 billion in 2018.

The cloud is enabling users to consume applications in a manner that was previously unattainable.  In the past, when a department manager wanted a business application, they had to get IT to write policies and configure the application. Today, employees can simply use a credit card and download the app on whatever device they choose.

The pace of business is now running at the pace of the cloud, and in many ways, IT no longer has control over software deployments. Many cloud and SaaS apps aren’t built to withstand enterprise-class scrutiny, which means they can cause security, reliability and performance challenges. Yet, IT is responsible for securing them, and making sure they are reliable. The average number of SaaS passwords has proliferated in recent years, which is a management and security challenge with users currently and formerly employed.

Traditional WAN infrastructure simply can’t meet today’s dynamic business needs. Those who have deployed Internet-only and even hybrid WANs to address the cloud, mobile workers and IoT devices, find themselves backhauling Internet traffic through their corporate data center, because of security concerns and conventional wisdom that is a best effort for connecting to the public Internet.

With all this traffic running over Internet links, the demand for bandwidth shows no signs of letting up. You would think with the explosion of cloud applications driving so much WAN traffic outside of the normal enterprise perimeter, IT budgets for bandwidth would increase in kind. But they have not; they have generally stayed flat to declining. You might think that’s a problem, but with the potential to lower costs through greater reliance upon broadband and wireless connectivity compared to MPLS, there may be some inherent logic. However, the justification can only be made if enterprises are able to leverage low cost link aggregation, without incurring additional costs from added complexity and resources to support it.

New Challenges from Internet of Things

IoT is proliferating, from connected cars and wearables, to smart homes and manufacturing, and millions of industrial devices. IoT growth sees no end in sight, and the market sizing estimates over the next few years are in the trillions of dollars.

As broadband and wireless link deployments expand, so does the need for branch and WAN security, reliability and performance. Supporting multiple clouds, IoT, and a myriad of user devices requires new networking infrastructure. Enterprises can no longer be slowed down by rigid networks, and hardware-bound devices. The average size WAN will have a half dozen separate hardware devices from different vendors, none of them communicate with each other, and they all require manual configurations and expensive support contracts.

Securing branch office-to-cloud connectivity brings additional challenges. For example, using a traditional VPN to connect to multiple cloud services has many issues with performance, management and configuration. And if you asked your peers in IT, they will most likely tell you traditional VPNs are not the best solution for Internet of things (IoT) connectivity.

SD-WAN Empowers the Application-Driven WAN

The world of IT is becoming virtualized, software-defined, automated and driven by business policies. Without these capabilities, the enterprise as we know it, will not be able to compete in a dynamic and digitally transformed business environment.

SD-WAN has turned conventional, monolithic, manually configured networks on their head, by building on SDN principals, and leveraging virtual network functions (VNFs) to create dynamic, automated and virtualized network and security services. Hardware-restricted functions are being unleashed and replaced by centrally managed and orchestrated cloud-provisioned overlays that optimize application delivery, and automate network and security service provisioning.

SD-WAN replaces the many hardware devices that need to be manually configured at every branch location. Software-defined and virtual network functions enable branch office users, IoT devices, and mobile workers to access applications, no matter where they reside. Whether branch to corporate headquarters, or branch and headquarters to clouds – over any type of network link, and to any number of clouds.

Because SD-WAN is all about optimizing the application user’s quality of experience, it can easily address the issue of users downloading cloud and SaaS apps without IT knowledge.  SD-WAN, with software-driven automation and application intelligence, automatically applies business policies that alleviate these challenges. For example, Versa’s SD-WAN provides SLAs for specific application types, specific transports, the quality of the traffic, and the responsiveness of those applications. This is done on a per-packet level, and in real-time with quality of service algorithms built-in. This automated and policy-based approach is in direct contrast with legacy techniques that try to accomplish this on a session level, or by pinging, and providing roundtrip data.

Lowering costs is another huge benefit derived from SD-WAN, where Internet links managed by SD-WAN can cost a quarter of what is costs to run an MPLS-based network. This kind of savings can represent millions of dollars each year for a medium to large enterprise. But, it’s not just the cost and provisioning benefits SD-WAN delivers. The ability to move fast in today’s competitive environment requires the ability to quickly respond to business opportunities, and this means quickly deploying a WAN to support a new branch office, temporary office and pop-up sites.

Delivery of applications with the best user experience is the mission of any IT organization. While Multi-Cloud and SaaS make it possible to distribute applications closer to the users, the challenge shifts to the network to securely provide the optimal path that meets SLA requirements.

Join Versa CEO Kelly Ahuja and Adobe network architect for an ONUG webinar to learn about how a major Cloud/SaaS visionary player like Adobe leverages Versa SD-WAN to automatically optimize distributed web applications that are critical to business operations based on how traffic should be steered for each branch according to the SLA for each specific application.