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Keeping track of Cloud services


Article Type: Feature          Published: 03-2016         Views: 6534      

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It is becoming increasingly critical for organisations to get a handle on the type and number of Cloud services and applications they use, says Chris Rogers, director of Cloud solutions at Silver Peak

The transformation of the WAN has been a hot topic for a couple of years now. Indeed, it has been predicted that 2016 will be year that software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) - a virtual WAN overlay that helps companies flexibly and securely connect users to applications via the most cost effective source of connectivity available, the internet - goes mainstream.

The Cloud has been one of the biggest drivers of the changing WAN, not least because it completely changes the way traffic flows over the network. With the Cloud, network traffic becomes chaotic and unpredictable - hence the need for a SD-WAN. When shifting to SD-WAN, it is important for companies to firstly understand what traffic is running on the network, which they can do by carrying out a Cloud consumption audit.

THE CHANGING WAN
In today's Cloud-driven world, there is a distinct need and expectation for increased responsiveness and agility. However, with traditional WAN architectures, if a new office needs to be opened, an existing office needs to be relocated, or if IT resources need to be moved, the process to add, move, or make changes to the WAN takes too long and is too disruptive to the business. For example, establishing connectivity at a new site, or increasing the bandwidth to an existing one, can take up to a month or longer.

To compound matters, traditional WANs that leverage MPLS do not accommodate new methods of automation, and typically require on-site IT expertise to configure network equipment. Lower-cost internet connectivity is available, but it historically has lacked scale, reliability and security. If internet connectivity is deployed at a branch, it often sits idle as a backup source until needed for fail-over.

Businesses are also wasting millions of pounds each year because of the "trombone effect," often referred to as back-hauling. Today, we directly access Cloud applications in our homes via broadband internet, which works fine and costs less. However, accessing those same Cloud applications from within the enterprise can often result in slower performance for Cloud applications, not to mention wasted costs for the business as a result of the transmission being sent back over the expensive MPLS connection.

What's more, as an increasing number of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications are being used within the enterprise, IT teams are increasingly losing visibility and control over this expanding mix of applications. Indeed, according to a recent survey by ZK Research, 90 percent of respondents claimed to have Cloud services that were purchased without the consent of IT.

Most CIOs and IT leaders today cannot say how many SaaS applications are running on their network, or which SaaS applications are in use across the enterprise. When SaaS performance or connectivity problems arise, organisations are usually notified via IT trouble tickets. As a result, the IT team not only needs to improve the performance of this new set of applications to keep Cloud users happy, but they also need to rein-in how applications are being used on the network.

Companies are, therefore, turning to SD-WAN to help them introduce new forms of connectivity to flexibly and securely connect their users to applications. This enables enterprises to either get better, more efficient use of their existing sources of connectivity, or even augment or replace MPLS networks with secure broadband internet connectivity.

One of the key features of SD-WAN is the ability to support multiple paths and allow connectivity decisions to be made independent of carriers, which helps enterprises avoid lengthy procurement and deployment delays for a faster time to service at the branch. On the surface that would seem like a tremendous benefit on its own, but there is much more to consider when deploying an SD-WAN.

Once connected, an SD-WAN fabric must provide visibility into both data centre and Cloud traffic, and provide the ability to centrally assign business intent policies to secure and control the WAN traffic. It should dynamically select the best path - whether that's MPLS or the internet - for each application based on customer-defined policies and real-time network quality measurements, all while keeping the data in-flight encrypted edge-to-edge.

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