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The nightmare of a day without connectivity - and how to avoid it
Article Written by Chalan Aras, vice president and general manager, Citrix

Today' businesses depend on network connectivity. Are you doing all it takes to keep your network running its best-and avoid the losses that even a brief disruption can trigger? Is your network adaptable enough to deal with the problems of today and those looming on the horizon? SD-WAN will give you a way.

Network failures can strike at any time-and their impact can be devastating for organizations of all kinds. At a branch, the MPLS WAN may be down due to a router failure or a cable cut on your street. With the best quoted MTTR (mean-time-to-repair) of four hours, many business transactions will be lost. In today's centralized IT environments, lost connectivity can leave users unable to access crucial applications and data. VoIP and other communication channels are severed, stranding both work teams and customers. Employees are cut off from the centralized services their work requires, and business grinds to a halt. Manufacturers can't access the inventory data they need to respond to field inquiries. Healthcare organizations can't retrieve patient information or test results at the point of care, or empower practitioners with the clinical systems they rely on. Retailers and financial services companies can't process transactions.

Even network problems short of total failure can quickly impact your business. On wide area networks slow-downs, and packet drops are common. Many service providers consider a 90% packet delivery rate an acceptable range, with only 25% credit back on service charges -- while you lose 100% of your business.

I've had frank conversations with customers who say that it isn't always a matter of inherent latency or other technical problems; the routine use of video, chat, and even streaming music can generate traffic that interferes with more important business apps. As delays grow with session re-transmits, so does the frustration of users and customers. Steps that should take a few seconds stretch to minutes. Inconsistent performance makes quality of service seem random and arbitrary. Employees and customers don't understand why some things take longer from one day to the next. Phone calls are incomprehensible because of high packet drop rates. Overall productivity and responsiveness suffer, and the organization as a whole becomes sluggish.

I've seen the evolution of how IT organizations address bandwidth issues be through WAN optimization, but the reality is that many high-bandwidth business apps such as graphics-intensive design tools, VoIP and HD video don't leave much room for optimization. Scaling WAN bandwidth through MPLS services is costly, takes months of negotiation and implementation to set up, and locks companies into multi-year contracts. I believe, you need a more agile, fluid way to adapt your network to the needs of your business and ensure the reliable high performance your users and customers demand. 

WAN virtualization is a type of software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) that offers a new approach to maintain the high-quality connectivity modern businesses with diverse locations and always-on branches demand. With a virtual WAN, multiple MPLS and broadband paths are logically bound into a single overlay network with greater bandwidth, resiliency and flexibility than any single connection could offer. Figure 1 (below) shows how a virtual WAN works in a headquarters-to-branch scenario.

 

 

 

What's more is that a Virtual WAN solution can help you beyond MPLS upgrades to prepare for a larger migration to software-defined networking throughout the enterprise. Thus, it is critical to understand and leverage the true capabilities of a software-defined WAN architecture, whether it is scaling out to expand users, delivering new apps or video capabilities, or using innovative tools to increase the visibility of network traffic insight.

A SD-WAN with virtual WAN technology offers four key capabilities:

  • Network bonding - Multiple MPLS and broadband paths are unified into a single virtual WAN. This allows the enterprise to augment high-cost MPLS connections with lower cost broadband solutions for maximum bandwidth. The ability for multiple WAN links to simultaneously carry critical traffic helps eliminate lost packets and downtime.
  • Intelligent path selection - A virtual WAN can select network paths in both directions on a per-packet basis for optimal bandwidth efficiency and adapt to changes in less than a second.
  • Application awareness - By identifying and prioritizing mission-critical application traffic, a virtual WAN can ensure critical apps such as VOIP and Point-of-sale transactions are delivered while nice to have video viewing is stopped when network is compromised. If one or more paths fail, critical apps can be quickly switched over to the remaining path or paths for uninterrupted productivity.
  • By utilizing internet paths, virtual WAN allows for direct connectivity to cloud-based services, preparing the business to use cloud based applications and services without a fork-lift.

In addition to offering greater flexibility and resilience than an MPLS-only network strategy, a virtual WAN can increase your network service agility. Being able to use multiple networks seamlessly at the same time, and to add, change and drop one service without affecting the others you use, you can take make network provider decisions on your own time horizon. This incorporation of multiple networks in the virtual WAN is depicted in Figure 2.

 

 

 

To decide whether an SD-WAN with virtual WAN technology is right for your business, consider these six questions:

  • Does your business depend on the ability of employees at branches to access centralized or hosted apps over remote connections?
  • Do you rely on Voice-over-IP services for communications?
  • Do you need to meet the demand for greater bandwidth, without the high cost and inflexibility of an MPLS upgrade?
  • Have you recently lost business due to network failures or performance issues?
  • Do you have a long-term network contract coming up for renewal?
  • Are you already paying for backup WAN links that are only used when a network failure occurs?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, a virtual WAN can help you increase application reliability and scale bandwidth while lowering networking costs. Every dollar you spend on MPLS upgrades is a missed opportunity to transform your network for the demands of today's always-on business environment. 

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About the Author

Chalan Aras, VP & GM, Delivery Networks, Citrix

As vice president and general manager of the CloudBridge Product group within the Delivery Networks BU, Chalan Aras drives the product development and go-to-market strategy for the company's cloud connectivity and WAN virtualization product line. Aras' background includes significant general management and product leadership roles in leading technology companies in Silicon Valley.

Aras joined Citrix from Cisco where he led the enterprise mobility (Wi-Fi) direction as vice president of marketing for the Wireless Networking business unit. Prior to Cisco, he was acting general manager and vice president of product management for Polycom's Voice Communications Solutions division and vice president of marketing and strategy at Ditech Networks, a mobility and interexchange carrier VoIP platforms provider. Aras has held other senior marketing roles at various voice and video networking startups, and started his career at IBM.

Aras received his Ph.D. and master's degree in computer engineering from North Carolina State University and also attained his EMBA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He has received five U.S. patents and is fluent in Turkish and French.

Follow Chalan's blog: http://blogs.citrix.com/author/caglana/  

Published Wednesday, September 30, 2015 6:21 AM by David Marshall
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