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More traffic, more locations: Tips for future-proofing enterprise networks

future-proof-enterprise-networks 

By Matt Stevens, CEO, AppNeta

"Future-proofing" is a tricky exercise, as it calls for teams to look into their crystal balls and contemplate all the ways that what they're doing now could fail them down the line. It puts people in an uncomfortable headspace -- confronting your failures is never fun, especially if they're only theoretical -- but it's critical to ensuring teams are in a position to celebrate their successes down the line.

That said, some things are easier to predict than others. One factor that enterprise IT teams can take to the bank, however, is that as extensive and highly trafficked as their networks are today, they'll only continue getting bigger and more crowded (and at a faster pace than ever before) for the foreseeable future.

In just one year, for instance, the global public cloud service market has jumped 17.3 percent and was projected to top $206 billion by the end of 2019. Similarly, Salesforce anticipates that from 2017 to 2021, the SaaS market will have doubled, jumping from $58.8 billion to $113.1 billion.

All of this is largely fueled by enterprise adoption of new workflows and a fundamental change to how business is conducted today. The enterprise WAN is now the thread that ties the entire business together, as teams are increasingly decentralized and reliant on collaboration tools to complete their work, leveraging solutions like VoIP that are reliant on robust network connectivity to perform.

All of this boils down to enterprise networks that are now supporting rapidly accelerating bandwidth requirements and, in many cases, 100 Gbps speeds across their largest network links. While a decade or so ago, teams may have never imagined a world where 100 Gbps would become the norm, it's becoming a fact of life today.

And even if networks aren't hitting 100 Gbps speeds today, they'd be remiss to not start planning for such a scenario down the line.

So what are enterprise IT pros doing today to stay ahead of the game?

"Internet-only" trumping "Internet-first" for increasingly decentralized networks

In the past, enterprise networks were largely hardware-defined and dependent strictly on MPLS connectivity, where teams could purchase and manage pathways between users and their apps. But Cisco found that 80 percent of modern enterprise employees and customers "work in or are served in branch offices," making MPLS-only connectivity a cost-prohibitive strategy, as teams need to facilitate more links (and at higher traffic speeds) between users and apps than ever in history.

As a result, teams are taking a "direct-to-internet" approach to establishing these connections, and for good reason; the internet is ubiquitous, and every branch location and remote user already partners with an ISP who can facilitate paths over the internet.

Traditionally, teams had taken an "Internet-first" approach to retiring their MPLS connections, where the default method for establishing new connections is to go "direct-to-internet." But even this is being taken a step further at many of the largest enterprises, as teams are retiring MPLS wholesale -- not just using the Internet to establish new connections, but pushing the whole organization in this direction.

The Internet-only approach does come with a bit of a caveat, as teams lose the explicit control over network pathways that purchased MPLS links can enable. But there are a wealth of modern network management and monitoring techniques that can empower teams with the visibility they need.

Making sure that users enjoy the benefits of direct-to-internet connectivity calls for comprehensive monitoring at all times -- especially in the midst of any network rearchitecting or transformation -- that can actively and passively track all network activity without itself becoming a drain on total network capacity.

Getting a handle on 100 Gbps+

While internet-first solutions solve one part of the future-proofing equation for enterprise IT, things are very different when you're looking at the core links that carry the highest traffic loads across the network.

The challenges with 100 Gbps links between core parts of the WAN start with some simple economics. When companies deploy higher-capacity WAN links (anything from 25 to 40 to 100 Gbps speeds), they're investing substantial resources to deliver business-critical applications to users, customers, or both.  

While bandwidth is getting cheaper compared to just a few years ago, a single 100 Gbps circuit can run in the tens of thousands of dollars per month. And when teams connect critical sites, redundancy is required, which can cause the investment to jump to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

In this context, future proofing hinges on how teams can retain visibility into high-speed connections to ensure performance and their investment.

Where high-speed, high-capacity links are involved, "lightweight" monitoring solutions are key. Lightweight solutions are tools that can measure capacity and traffic patterns without themselves adding their own heavy traffic burden. For instance, while techniques like network flooding are one strategy to help teams get an understanding of network capacity, retrieving even this baseline information without interrupting or pausing network performance over that link is nearly impossible.

Even if enterprises aren't running at 100 Gbps speeds, partnering with monitoring solutions that are able to seamlessly scale to that level today is critical since higher-capacity links are pretty much an inevitability. This can help arm IT with the foresight they need to get ahead of any potential performance issues that could put a major hitch in their "future-proofing" efforts.

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About the Author

Matt Stevens 

Matt Stevens is co-founder, CEO, President, and Chairman of AppNeta, the leader in performance monitoring solutions built for the complex, distributed enterprise. Prior to founding AppNeta, Matt was CTO of the Information and Event Management (SIEM) business unit of RSA, The Security Division of EMC. He joined EMC after the acquisition of Network Intelligence Corp., where he was co-founder, President and CTO. While at RSA, Matt was also a member of EMC's Office of the CTO, where his team had responsibility for EMC's overall strategic direction for information security. Prior to Network Intelligence and RSA, Matt held senior technology, sales, and marketing positions with NetApp, Solbourne Computer and Harris Corporation.

Published Thursday, February 27, 2020 7:30 AM by David Marshall
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