After a decade of little change to its architecture and design, the WAN is now the focus of considerable innovation. As new business critical applications and cloud services demand greater amounts of bandwidth and reliability, many CIOs are rethinking how they architect their WANs to improve business performance and reduce costs. A new Gartner report highlights the need for organisations to adopt a virtualised WAN solution to avoid application performance problems and scale bandwidth.
The report, titled ‘Hybrid Will Be the New Normal for Next Generation Enterprise WAN’, explains that enterprise needs for connectivity have evolved to a point where network planners can no longer fulfill these needs by just sourcing a single private MPLS WAN service. This is for two reasons:
- While branch offices still need to be connected to enterprise data centres, they now also need to be connected to various external cloud services. These cloud services are often sourced via separate projects for specific application needs that also lead to project-specific WAN connections, often based on the Internet.
- Enterprise employees’ typical method of conducting business and accessing applications is shifting from PC workstations to laptops, mobile phones and tablets. These are increasingly being used in a mobile context outside of the office both to access applications and to interact with colleagues, partners and customers via the Internet.
Why optimisation is not enough
The traditional way to meet performance and reliability requirements is to optimise the WAN, but while this solution accelerates performance and effectively increases bandwidth, it can’t overcome all of the issues when the underlying WAN is unreliable or unavailable. The result is recurring application performance problems caused by incomplete WAN architectures that force high network latencies, which in turn causes end user dissatisfaction, loss of productivity and higher costs. As such, WAN optimisation by itself can no longer guarantee enterprises the network capacity, agility and reliability they need to meet the data, communications and applications demands of mobile and remote employees, partners and customers.
Evolution of the WAN
As the next generation alternative to WAN optimisation, the virtualised WAN can address the key challenges facing CIOs today. WAN virtualisation combines multiple WAN connections, including cheap Internet connections, wrapped with a layer of hardware and software intelligence, to deliver cheaper, higher-bandwidth capacity and more reliable WAN connectivity. According to one estimate, it changes the price per bit of bandwidth for the enterprise Intranet, delivering anywhere from 30 to 100 times better cost per bit, by allowing enterprises for the first time to take advantage of Internet economics to augment and/or replace MPLS connections.
CIOs today are expected to enable business agility as well as drive revenue growth – an impossible task with traditional WAN architectures. Their primary concerns include how quickly a new application can be made available to internal users, the cost of delivery, and how flexibly the application can be adopted without changing the existing infrastructure. A virtualised WAN solution allows them to address the needs of an agile enterprise – it’s an efficient and cost effective way to leverage cloud services and new applications, and also delivers a significant ROI.
WAN virtualisation as a business necessity
The shift toward cloud computing, cloud applications and mobile technology is creating new demands for the enterprise WAN. As enterprises continue to adopt emerging technologies, new, flexible WAN solutions are business critical, and something that the enterprise WAN needs to reliably deliver. CIOs need to overhaul their WANs with innovative hybrid solutions so the network can become a strategic business asset. With virtualisation, CIOs can transform their WANs from data and communications pipelines into strategic enterprise technologies.
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