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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Infovista Talks Next Generation SD-WAN, Trends, Automation and Machine Learning


As enterprises continue to migrate their business applications to the cloud to gain both cost savings and increased availability, a trade-off can be the performance to an end-user.  But if an organization moves to an application-aware SD-WAN, studies show that end users can enjoy a consistent user experience.  To dive in deeper here and learn more about SD-WAN and where it is going, VMblog spoke to industry expert Mike Wilkinson, Chief Product Officer at Infovista.  

VMblog:  In your view, what does the next generation of SD-WAN bring in terms of features and functionality that the previous generation did not?

Mike Wilkinson:  In the beginning, SD-WAN started as a way to reduce network costs. As networks have grown and experience more and more demand, the focus of SD-WAN has shifted to application performance. As the technology continues to evolve to meet current needs, the name of the game is delivering business intent. SD-WAN 2.0 achieves a more effective and efficient application management by incorporating application intelligence to manage performance with a greater understanding of what the business needs and ensure the business intent is achieved. At Infovista, we call this Application Intelligence Plus. This feature of SD-WAN 2.0 is about very fine granular session management of applications alongside cloud-based real-time updates so that we can understand what new applications are appearing, filter them out, and ensure that the business intent of the organization is continuously maintained.

VMblog:  What are some of the top trends you are seeing that are driving the need for increased application intelligence and high performance, and how do these trends impact companies in the real world.

Wilkinson:  There are two big trends that are driving a lot of the application performance needs we are seeing today. The first one that comes to mind is digital transformation and the second is the cloud.  Digital transformation is among the top priorities for most organizations today. With the promise of using technology to interact with customers at a lower cost while generating higher value, it is no wonder that everyone is chasing digital transformation. For example, consider the efficiency added when ordering food from a kiosk at your favorite fast-food restaurant. You interact largely with applications and systems and then your food is prepared and provided to you quickly, with less mistakes and inefficiencies. These types of kiosks have also been proven to be 30 percent more effective in upselling customers. That is digital transformation in action and while it sounds great, it only works well if those kiosks are running at their optimal performance. Quickly the importance of the network and application performance become evident. Considering the efforts being made to achieve digital transformation in virtually all industries, this trend has a lot to do with the need for better and more intelligent application performance.

When it comes to the cloud, it is simply a victim of its own success. Cloud applications have become so efficient and easy to implement that migration to the cloud has resulted in a typical enterprise having over a thousand cloud applications running on their network. Complicating the situation even more is the fact that many of these applications are shadow IT, or applications used by end-users without authorization of the IT department. With this type of environment, it is essential that companies understand what is consuming network capacity in order to ensure that they're delivering the right performance to the right cloud applications. Cloud is driving both the positive cost reduction, flexibility, and increased capabilities, but at the same time the high volume of applications and the presence of shadow IT can also create a lot of problems for organizations, which can only be properly managed with a high degree of application intelligence.

VMblog:  We hear a lot these days about the hyper-connected enterprise, given the incredibly high levels of interconnectivity in most organizations, how can they strike a balance between providing consistent application performance across all sites while at the same time effectively managing costs?

Wilkinson:  Any hyper connected enterprise will need highly flexible networking technologies in order to meet network demands and manage costs. SD-WAN-based services play a big part of that equation, as they can provide services virtually instantaneously and then are turned down again. With that base, once the services come online, SD-WAN can then automatically control the types of applications being used and ensure that the quality is appropriate to what the business is trying to achieve.

Consider an example where an organization has many applications being used across various sites which need to be able to talk to one another and work together seamlessly. In that type of scenario, the organization needs to determine on a site-by-site basis, and on an application-by-application basis, what's most important. They also need to consider the possibility that shadow IT is also at play. In order to achieve this, the organization needs to be able to differentiate and ensure the quality is right for the business with a high degree of application intelligence. This will ultimately enable them to ensure consistent performance while managing costs effectively.

VMblog:  I know they are popular buzz words, but it really does sound like automation and machine learning are key to responding to the challenges companies are facing.  Can you explain a bit more about why that is and how it fits into the broader SD-WAN deployment picture?

Wilkinson:  You are right, automation and machine learning are key elements in the world of SD-WAN. Particularly with SD-WAN 2.0 where you're running large amounts of application intelligence to ensure various different applications are running as they should. In order for this to work, you need an automation engine sitting in the middle, understanding what's going on, and then making automatic adjustments to the network infrastructure where the SD-WAN 2.0 is running. Given that this process must run at a very high cadence with continual monitoring, it is essential that the process be automated. Then, as soon as the process identifies degradation, it can immediately take action to ensure application performance. From a machine learning perspective, the system intelligence can help the company anticipate certain types of behaviors or activity and in turn make alterations to the network to accommodate those sorts of behaviors and manage the application quality as a result.

VMblog:  Where does Infovista go from here to deliver on the future?

Wilkinson:  We will remain laser focused on application quality and user experience. We will help organizations take advantage of business intent policies and will provide tools to help enforce consistent application conformance and reliability. We believe it is very important to extend the capabilities, availability and flexibility that we can provide our customers in terms of delivery options, so we will remain focused on achieving that. As we continue to move forward it will remain a priority to build and strengthen our partnerships with best-in-class technology partners and service providers in order to offer our customers support for a wide array of deployment requirements.


Published Monday, March 18, 2019 9:07 AM by David Marshall
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