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Four Reasons Your Business Apps Are Letting You Down

Written by Zabrina Doerck, Director of Product Marketing at Infovista

If your business is like most these days, the operational heartbeat of your company-and in many ways, its success-depends more and more on the apps you use. Customer-facing digital experiences. Internal corporate apps you rely on for basic operations. A growing number of cloud-hosted apps that fuel everything from sales to supply chain to collaboration to HR. Poll your users though, and you'll find that, despite these apps playing such a critical role in your business, the actual experience using them is often... not great.

Enterprise apps that are central to basic operations run sluggishly or get hung up at unpredictable times. Videoconferencing and multimedia apps that worked fine one day get choppy or lose connectivity the next. In the worst cases, customer-facing commerce, inventory or customer service apps cut out unexpectedly, frustrating your customers and, potentially, eroding your bottom line.

You may have tried throwing more bandwidth at the problem but found that these issues persist. You may have even adopted a software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) solution, thinking it would improve app performance, but haven't gotten the results you expected. What's going on here? Let's run through some possibilities:

  • Cloud is introducing variability. There's a reason analysts expect 83% of enterprise workloads to be in the cloud by 2020: the cloud makes it easier to access and manage applications. At the same time, the more you rely on cloud apps, the more your business is at the mercy of your WAN. If you're still routing all cloud traffic through a central data center, for example, you're introducing significant latency. This is one of the major drivers of SD-WAN adoption-the ability to break out cloud traffic at local branches and route it directly over the Internet. Now though, you're relying on a mix of Internet connections and dedicated WAN links to support different locations and services. This introduces new complexities and variability from one session to the next that your WAN was never designed to cope with.
  • App optimization is optimizing the wrong apps. Many businesses have invested in application acceleration-another key driver for (and expected benefit of) SD-WAN. Unfortunately, most SD-WAN solutions don't provide the flexibility or granularity to truly control app performance over dynamic modern WANs. Typically, they prioritize all traffic of a given type or from a specific app, a blunt-instrument approach that can easily go awry. It's common, for example, to find some users seeing lags and disconnects when trying to log onto an important videoconference, while others stream HD YouTube without a hiccup. What's happening? The SD-WAN is indeed optimizing your apps. But you have more and more of them, all competing for bandwidth, and it's optimizing the wrong ones.
  • Important business apps require consistent performance that your network can't provide. Many businesses are investing in digital transformation initiatives, like deploying new Internet of Things (IoT) apps on factory floors or digital kiosks at retail sites. But too often, those initiatives don't pay off as expected. Maintenance costs aren't really going down. Retail sales conversions are flat or even declining. Often, the problem is that new digital apps require a consistent baseline level of performance that the network can't maintain. So, the benefits of these initiatives end up being far slower to materialize, or-in particularly egregious cases-new tools get abandoned because the user experience is so frustrating.
  • Unpredictable high-volume traffic flows are overwhelming transactional flows. Along the same lines, innovative businesses are expanding their use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to fuel real-time analytics and automated decision-making. But "real-time" here is key; if a real-time data stream gets backed up, you can see all sorts of unexpected behavior in higher-level applications. Often, businesses attempt to solve this problem by adding bandwidth. But this isn't a bandwidth issue; most real-time data flows are relatively small. The problem is, they're getting overwhelmed by occasional high-volume flows (like large file transfers), and a fatter pipe won't help.

Reimagining the WAN

These are all serious issues, and you're likely to see more of them as you rely on apps to run more aspects of your business. Making matters worse, in most cases, adding more bandwidth-the first approach many enterprises employ-won't help. Because the answer to these problems isn't adding more capacity; it's adding more intelligence.

The fact is, WANs have worked largely the same way for decades, even as the number of apps running over enterprise networks, and the demands placed on them, have exploded. What's needed now is more sophisticated traffic-handling intelligence, so your network understands what individual users and apps are doing, and how important those activities are to your business. Ideally, you'd like your WAN to automatically prioritize traffic based on business priorities end to end. It's called "intent-based networking." And it's where WANs need to go in an app-driven world.

A Smarter SD-WAN

As the new nerve center for the enterprise network, SD-WANs are in prime position to fix most of the problems plaguing app experiences. But the first generation of SD-WAN solutions were built to address network capacity and costs-not application performance. In some cases, SD-WAN even made things worse, because businesses were now trying to manage traffic over a mix of different types of circuits in different locations, only some of which supported quality-of-service (QoS).

Today, new solutions can address what most businesses consider the most important aspect of their WAN: the experience for people using it. Built specifically to optimize app performance for every user, a smart SD-WAN should deliver three core capabilities:

  • QoS prioritization over all connections: New SD-WANs provide a logical overlay to rationalize all the various WAN connections that business now use. They can provide true end-to-end prioritization to control traffic flows in more granular, context-aware ways.
  • Adaptable queues: Knowing which apps should be prioritized is a start, but it's not enough. The network also needs to see when changing traffic patterns are diminishing the user experience in unacceptable ways. That requires dynamic QoS queues that can adjust to changing conditions in real time. If there's a spike in usage of a high-priority app, for example, new SD-WANs can recognize that and allocate more bandwidth until conditions normalize.
  • Session-based intelligence: Where first-gen SD-WANs provided basic prioritization based on traffic types, modern solutions get far more granular. They're able to monitor the performance experienced by individual users, and they optimize quality on a session-by-session basis.

With capabilities like these, businesses can solve the biggest issues making app experiences so unpredictable. And they can ensure that, as more mission-critical business runs on apps, their networks provide a great experience for every user, every time.

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About the Author

Zabrina Doerck, Director of Product Marketing

Zabrina directs product marketing strategy for Infovista's Ipanema SD-WAN portfolio. With more than 15 years' experience in the B2B SaaS/IaaS market, Zabrina is an evangelist for best-in-class enterprise technology solutions that deliver quality customer experiences and drive profitability. Prior to joining Infovista, Zabrina led marketing strategy for SD-WAN, Cloud and Managed Services at Comcast Business, a Global Fortune 100 company. Zabrina also brings unique vertical insights from past roles with leading data center and global medical SaaS companies, with special expertise in manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and finance.

Published Wednesday, July 03, 2019 7:35 AM by David Marshall
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