Thursday, March 26, 2015

Blueprint: The 5 Fundamentals of Building the New Enterprise WAN

by Mary Stanhope, Vice President of Marketing, Global Capacity

Wide Area Network (WAN) architectures are changing to meet the evolving needs of business. WANs are the critical component of any medium and large enterprise data environment, connecting locations, people, and systems, and transporting data to support day-to-day and critical business operations. As businesses expand geographically across the US, outside of major metropolitan cities into cost-effective rural locations as well as international business centers, their need to connect a larger and distributed workforce with business applications expands in complexity.

While enterprise business is expanding geographically, WAN architectures also need to evolve to support the growing use of the cloud and the sheer volume of real-time, interactive business applications being deployed outside of headquarters’ brick and mortar. This year alone, enterprises predict they will increase their spending on cloud computing by 42% according to IDG’s Computerworld Forecast Study 2015. Furthermore, enterprises also plan to allocate more budget to both collaborative and enterprise applications, which IDC predicts will show fluctuating CAGR rates of 6-8% into 2017.

Evolving the Traditional WAN

Since the late 90’s, enterprises have turned to the Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) architecture solution to interconnect branch offices to each other because it offers any-to-any connectivity for thousands of sites combined with Quality of Service (QoS) for packet prioritization.  Unlike the standard IP table lookups performed by non-MPLS routers, MPLS’ label switching technology enables faster lookups for destinations and routing.   Interconnecting thousands of sites, such as branch offices and data centers, and handling any-to-any traffic patterns is simplified by MPLS’ routed architecture and Layer-3 IP Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). While, MPLS remains a popular WAN connectivity option, it is no longer the total solution. The evolution of the enterprise has created a need for alternative and complementary access services.

Single provider, single technology WAN architectures no longer cost-effectively satisfy the complex needs of today’s medium and large enterprises. Different technologies and services may work better in connecting different business locations. When interconnecting data centers, the most common alternative to MPLS is Carrier Ethernet.

The advantage to Carrier Ethernet is that the bandwidth is lower cost and the services are easy to set up.  Connectivity to cloud computing is better served by Carrier Ethernet rather than MPLS due to its higher bandwidth connectivity to and between datacenters. In contrast, Carrier Ethernet services do not scale to the same magnitude of sites as MPLS. So, it is best used for a subset of locations requiring high-bandwidth such as data centers and headquarters.

MPLS services are most available in metropolitan areas, but not everywhere. When it comes to remote offices that only require Internet connectivity to be successful, Internet access or Broadband are best used for lower cost and ubiquitous coverage. Sometimes, these are business- grade Service Level Agreement (SLA) Internet services; alternatively they are "best effort" offerings.

Today, there is no single WAN technology that effectively meets every single requirement across enterprise applications and locations.

The Hybrid WAN

Today’s business WAN requires designing the right connectivity for the right application at the right location. For many enterprises, this means deploying multi-service WAN switches at the edge of the network to connect to multiple services such as Internet, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), and storage over the same aggregated connection. For others, it involves implementing multi-network, multi-geography WANs built from a hybrid of technologies, including Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) to remote offices with lower bandwidth needs, Carrier Ethernet between headquarters and data centers, and a combination of MPLS and Ethernet connectivity based on availability and pricing between locations.  The new WAN encompasses multiple technologies and locations in order to support multiple bandwidths and performance levels.

Appropriately sizing connectivity to the location, users and applications being used at each enterprise office is imperative to successful WAN performance. With the fractured nature of today’s telecommunication access market, however, this is often easier said than done.

The Five Fundamentals of Building the New WAN 

The need for MPLS, Carrier Ethernet, and Internet access across disparate locations and geographies creates a new complexity for IT and network teams to design WANs. Where buying managed services from a local exchange providers may have been a one-stop solution for an MPLS WAN, the evolving architecture requires a modern approach and tool set to design, order, and manage evolving WAN connectivity.

So, how does any one enterprise effectively design, manage, and maintain the new WAN, and how can this process be simplified? One solution is to leverage a network marketplace for visibility into service options, pricing, and availability. A marketplace of networks offers enterprises connectivity as a service through aggregated network bandwidth combined with an online self-service application to design, order, and deliver services. A network marketplace simplifies the complexity of procuring the new WAN with five fundamental attributes:

1. Visibility – To make informed decisions, Network designers need to have increased visibility into the network availability, technology, and pricing connecting their business locations. Network-building tools need to provide transparency into the fractured nature of today’s telecommunication access market to optimize the cost and performance of connectivity.

2. “What-if” Modeling - “What-if” modeling scenarios greatly simplify designing optimal, purpose-built WANs. With “what-if” modeling capabilities, anyone can enter an address and filter connectivity options based on specific service criteria, including data center locations, service technologies, latency, contract term, and price point to design the optimal WAN that meets specific business objectives.

3. Real-Time Pricing – Enterprises are dynamic and growing, with new locations being added through expansion, mergers, and acquisitions. Access to real-time, automated pricing of network connectivity allows IT teams to make timely decisions on connecting new locations and expanding existing ones.  

4. Ease of Ordering – We are all used to the convenience of online ordering. After spending the time to design and price the optimal WAN, enterprise IT and network teams need to be able to transact on their design without delay. A digital marketplace allows for immediate transactions that deliver the network with a single master service agreement, supporting SLAs, and invoice, as opposed to proposals, orders and provisioning from multiple network service providers.

5. Simplify – Because WANs are growing in complexity and requirements, tools need to be made available that leverage data and automation to simplify the experience for the IT professional. A network marketplace can be used not only to simplify connectivity in today’s fractured market, but also for added control, efficiency, and optimized performance and cost.

Leveraging a digital network marketplace, enterprises with thousands of sites can easily design their WAN without laborious RFP processes and accurately choose and price different solutions for quality, performance, and location. With added visibility into the marketplace, enterprises realize substantial cost savings by connecting the right applications to the right locations with the right services for optimal network performance and price. The evolving WAN demands a new method of network design, build, and management, delivered exclusively, cost-effectively, and simply by the digital network marketplace.

About the Author

Mary Stanhope is Vice President of Marketing for Global Capacity.  Ms. Stanhope is responsible for the strategic positioning and go to market of Global Capacity’s products and services. She has over 23 years in the communications industry, holding business development and product marketing roles of increasing responsibility with companies such as Sidera Networks, RCN, Teleport Communications, Atos Origin and SchlumbergerSema.  From the introduction of SMS and prepaid wireless to the development of online communities and launch of Ethernet and cloud services, Ms. Stanhope has been a pioneer for architecting change in how businesses and people communicate as recognized by Fierce Telecom 2013 Top 10 Women in Wireline.  She is an active participant in the MEF and Light Reading Ethernet Executive Council.  Ms. Stanhope holds a B.A. degree from Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY.




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