WWWAN – Why the Enterprise is moving away from MPLS

WWWAN – Why the Enterprise is moving away from MPLS

“We didn’t get any messages, and Captain Blackadder definitely did not shoot that delicious plump-breasted pigeon.” – Lieutenant George to General Melchett and Captain Darling

In the series “Blackadder goes Forth”, set in the trenches of WW1, Edmund Blackadder avoids multiple types of messages for the company to “go over the top”. These messages come in the form of a telegram (addressed to “Catpain Blackudder”), telephone (the wrong number and latterly, a very poor connection), and a carrier pigeon (General Melchett’s beloved Speckled Jim).

Businesses today are faced with communication problems similar to that of General Melchett:

  • Visibility – How does the Enterprise know whether their network is performing as it should to support their applications?
  • Performance – How does it ensure that it gives its applications the quality of bandwidth they need?
  • Choice – How can a business achieve the necessary flexibility to choose its connection method?
  • Cost – OK, the analogy falls down here although the death of Speckled Jim came at great emotional cost to General Melchett. Regardless, how can businesses maximise network performance in a cost efficient way?

There were many developments in WW1, notably Transport / Mobility / Weaponry / Strategy, but one came in the form of communication that has changed our world today… At the start of the war, there was the telegraph, and the telephone. This was reliable, but rigid. Cables lay between point A and point B and soldiers didn’t move a great deal, so this form of communication worked. However, as the war progressed, and tanks were introduced, and air support, how could Commanders communicate with their various resources to form a co-ordinated attack? The answer was the revolutionary radio.

But how does this apply to businesses today?

MPLS has served organisations since applications were centralised to the data-centre, creating a “cloud” of sorts for offices to securely connect to those central resources. However, increasingly the Enterprise is demanding more flexibility, especially with the shift towards SAAS applications like Office 365 (with many of our customers making this change). Increasingly traffic is being fired from the remote offices, to the DC, out through very expensive pipes to the SAAS provider, back to the DC, and then out onto MPLS. If this seems a bit convoluted, it is!

The telegraph didn’t offer the flexibility to reach WW1 tanks and aircraft, so the relatively new radio technology, offered an increasingly attractive alternative as a means of co-ordinating large attacks across all resources.

Unlike the telegraph, the relatively new radio technology offered the flexibility required to co-ordinate large attacks across all resources, including tanks and aircrafts. Suddenly, without the need for miles of cables and associated costs, communication became dynamic rather than static.

The Internet offers something very similar to the Enterprise.

It’s flexible, it’s available, it’s inexpensive and it can be very fast indeed… certainly faster than Melchett’s carrier pigeon!

So why isn’t the Enterprise just deploying commodity Internet?

Well just like the radio in warfare, there were drawbacks:

  • Security (the enemy just had to know what frequency to tune into…)
  • Consistency of performance
  • Visibility (like General Melchett, how did he know his message was getting to the intended recipient?)

A consumer broadband connection for the Enterprise is not the answer. The Enterprise cannot be expected to run Business Critical Applications across a medium that offers no SLA’s. Packets sent across the Internet can get re-ordered (creating major challenges for TCP based traffic) or just get lost in the ether. Nor does it offer satisfactory levels of security.

However, what if these drawbacks could be mitigated to the degree where the Enterprise could safely benefit from the massive bandwidth and huge cost reductions offered by commodity internet connections?

SD-WAN has become an incredibly compelling business proposition to the Enterprise. Indeed it offers something that no form of communication throughout history has managed to really achieve, and therefore breaks my rudimentary WW1 analogy. It offers the ability to bond multiple types of different connections together, and intelligently control the flow of data / traffic from one location to another.

What has SD-WAN got to do with broadband?

It unlocks the opportunity offered by the Internet and mitigates the drawbacks:

  • Security – securely tunnel across the internet (AES-256 encryption)
  • Consistency of performance –re-order packets appropriately using complex algorithms, accurately replacing packets that may have been lost in transit
  • Visibility – monitoring available internet links to push traffic across the best path, viewing traffic from a central orchestrator

So what does this offer the Enterprise?

There are huge opportunities that this offers the Enterprise, and I cannot list them all here but they include:

  • Visibility
    • Speeding up troubleshooting for applications and removing the reliance on the Service Provider to tell you whether your network is “up or down”
  • Increased Performance
    • Giving your applications the quality and quantity of connectivity they require
  • Choice
    • Because you are no longer tied to one Service Provide you can take whatever connectivity you want, at whatever price, and bond it together. Create your own Application SLA’s rather than Network SLA’s
  • Cost
    • Providing high quality bandwidth at low cost
  • Locally Breakout from Remote Locations
    • No more tromboning traffic through the DC to get to SAAS
  • Additional Resiliency
    • Immediately load-balance to the highest performing link, providing application surety
  • Agility
    • Quickly deploying necessary bandwidth if application requirements change

There are a multitude of benefits associated with SD-WAN that I have barely touched upon here. Ultimately, our networks have been built for a previous generation of IT, similar to how the telegraph was integrated with the Armed Forces of the past. However, technological advancements have changed the nature of warfare and business. There is only one person that wins during warfare, and that is the arms dealer; and today, in business, it can be the Service Provider; not your customer, or you. Businesses continue to provision new MPLS for the security and assumed reliability and overlook its limitations, simply because MPLS is what the majority have deployed for the past 10 years. SD-WAN offers an alternative that allows the Enterprise to consume huge quantities of consumer broadband, at a fraction of the cost, whilst experiencing the same “private-line” like performance.

To discover how organisations are already benefitting from the application performance and cost savings that SD-WAN delivers get in contact today. You could try Melchett’s carrier pigeon…but phone or email is probably better!


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Posted by Alistair Slocombe

Business Services Consultant at Gyrocom - Connecting Companies to their data, their applications & their customers.