In every business, the story is the same. More cloud, more SaaS, and the move to Internet-centric networks to deliver them, in conjunction with MPLS - or replacing it.
“Move to the Internet.” It seems like a simple solution, but for many reasons the www is still the ‘wild wild west’ for many people, and understandably so. The internet itself is made up of 50,000+ individual Autonomous Systems that mesh together, across which your traffic is directed using a routing protocol that makes decisions based on the number of systems it has to ‘hop’ across. An efficient enough system, but one with endemic problems. Latency, packet loss, delays and other performance issues have always been there and most likely always will.
What’s different today is the requirements of business. To remain competitive they demand performance, agility and resilience, everywhere. Which means these constant performance issues are becoming unacceptable to CIOs, network administrators and the employees who work with an enterprise’s Cloud and SaaS applications.
For example, ModusLink recently went looking to replace MPLS with internet connectivity. As a large Global third-party logistics provider, a flexible network is essential for the team to meet increasingly complex customer requirements as digital supply chains evolve. Internet connectivity services were deployed to meet these requirements, taking into account local supplier quality, last mile access methods, redundancy options, routing/peering options, and overall limitations of connectivity in certain geographies, to choose the best connectivity underlay options.
You can get all the performance and reliability you need from the Internet. To understand how, let’s first discuss a few basic concepts about the workings of the Internet.
Dedicated Internet vs Broadband Internet
Cheap broadband has captured the imagination of many an SD-WAN vendor. What we like to say is, the true costs of broadband are not found on the ISP price pages. There are hidden costs with contended broadband, depending on what value you put on performance and availability.
Plus, the unknowns of monitoring and management of the service from within your own network can create unforeseen costs. I’m not saying that paying more is a guarantee of a quality, but you want to work with a connectivity provider who knows the ISP landscape in your geographies. Provider management in a DIY setup can also be a costly headache, particularly when dealing in-country with different cultures and capabilities.
SD-WAN is an overlay service. For the overlay to work well, and to realise the full benefits of an SD-WAN implementation, you need an underlay network that also works well, for your IPSec tunnels for example.
Optimised IP or BGP optimisation can also play a vital role in delivering a high performing Internet based undelay network. Either way, we believe that the right internet strategy is fundamental to a successful SD-WAN strategy.
There’s fear around moving away from MPLS and truly embracing the cloud, but with the right partners and an innovation mindset you can power a high performing, cloud-first network, with Internet.
Unfortunately, paying for premium ITPs does not give you any guarantee of performance. Every provider will experience issues at some time during any given day, regardless of who or where they are.
Furthermore, the perception is that a couple of broadband links from different ISPs gives you diversity and the ability to avoid issues. The reality is you could be paying 2 (or more) different ISPs for broadband that will run on the same line and have the same problems at the same time.
The shortest path might actually be the longest
The peering decisions made by your providers may be seen by the Internet as the path with the fewest hops, with the fewest systems to move between, but your data could be going out across an ocean and then coming back across a continent, without you even realising it.
Without the right tools to see this you can spend a lot of time wondering where your problems are coming from.
The global challenge
Connecting your branch offices to the network is still one of the fundamental challenges. How do you connect to the network and make SD-WAN work across all locations? As an example, even in Germany DSL availability is not at 100% coverage.
If we look again at the case of ModusLink; SD-WAN solutions allowed them to operate 26 sites in 10 countries; the USA, Mexico, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, Czech Republic.
So that’s a quick look at some concepts that can trip up even the most experienced network operators when you move to the Internet. However, with the right tools, insight and knowledge, you can make the Internet work for you.