How Much App Traffic Can Your Network Handle?

Enterprises are using more applications than ever before, both on-premises and in the cloud. Cloud computing has simplified the delivery, use and maintenance of software, allowing many new programs to be introduced alongside the preexisting ones (e.g., enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management tools) that cannot be ignored.

According to the 2015 State of the Cloud Report from RightScale, more than 90 percent of organizations are now utilizing some form of cloud, whether public, private or hybrid. The ongoing and rapid adoption of platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) – which in October 2015 passed 1 million active customers, had a $1 billion run rate and was expected to become a $7.3 billion business – shows that cloud applications are not only catching on, but also still have plenty of headroom for growth.

At the same time, traditional applications are still evolving and going strong. Data center traffic may actually triple from 2014 levels by 2019, as more servers are rolled out to support communications technologies, file storage systems, business intelligence and the Internet of Things, among other initiatives. What does the simultaneous rise of cloud applications and the evolution of other types of programs mean for your WAN’s ability to take on new traffic?

Cloud convenience and the challenges of application sprawl

Enterprises have shifted a growing number of their everyday workflows to the cloud, weaving in new applications at a torrid pace. VoIP phones and online file storage systems are just a few examples of critical solutions that have gained big advantages over the traditional alternatives like circuit-switched telephony and old-fashioned hard drives. However, the flip side to such convenience is application sprawl:

  • An Intermedia SMB Cloud Landscape Report estimated that the typical small or medium-sized firm had over 14 cloud applications in active use. Its average employee had to deal with more than five of these apps on a daily basis.
  • This sprawl has a cost. Intermedia estimated that each employee lost about $15 in productivity a month from it, due to issues such as forgotten logins, complex vendor management and difficult integrations.
  • Research conducted by Netskope and the Ponemon Institute estimated that, among European enterprises, at least 10 percent of business-critical applications and 23 percent of their associated business data in the cloud were invisible to IT.
  • Netskope CEO Sanjay Beri went further and asserted that these companies were using hundreds of cloud apps apiece, with most of them – e.g., and Box – purchased outside of normal IT procurement processes.
  • It is not just cloud that is the challenge, though. Sprawl also comes from the apparent need to hold on to bloated legacy applications like outdated enterprise resource planning systems. These programs are often inefficient and costly to maintain.
Cloud applications can become costly without a truly scalable WAN in place.                                                      Cloud applications can become costly without a truly scalable WAN in place.

The 80-20 rule (i.e., the idea that 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the workers) can be re-conceived to explain the current situation with enterprise application sprawl. That is, 80 percent of the cost and overhead of application management may come from 20 percent of applications.

This strain may originate from legacy applications that are difficult to maintain, as well as from cloud solutions that are not being held accountable or controlled by IT. Problematic applications may saturate your available network bandwidth and also cause various issues with security and compliance. The general challenge from application sprawl can be understood by looking at how today’s conventional WANs struggle with all of the traffic from different application types.

How the application traffic surge is changing WAN requirements

One of the most interesting numbers in RightScale’s report was that, despite all the hype around cloud, most enterprises were still running only a sliver less than 20 percent, for two-thirds of the study’s respondents at least, of their application portfolios in the cloud. At the same time, many of them planned to shift more workloads to virtual machines in the coming years, which means potentially big changes for the types and volumes of traffic passing over WAN links.

Many WANs still rely on MPLS capacity that is accessed via T1 lines and similar legacy protocols. MPLS is both reliable and versatile, and it is likely not going away any time soon. But it is still not a natural fit for cloud applications:

  • For starters, end users of Software-as-a-Service applications are going straight to the Internet, and MPLS itself was not even designed with SaaS tools in mind.
  • MPLS-based WANs also often follow a hub-and-spoke model, under which all traffic from branch offices is backhauled through the data center before heading to its destination.
  • This so-called “trombone effect” can diminish the user experience and waste expensive MPLS bandwidth, leaving less of it available to performance-sensitive real-time streams for voice, video and other SaaS.

With total data center traffic set to surge until the end of the decade, much more bandwidth will be needed on WANs to support this projected level of application activity. Costly non-global MPLS might not be the best way to supply it.

“More capacity and intelligent bandwidth management is needed.”

Without enough network resources on tap, enterprises are at risk of having bandwidth hogs like video conferencing, or even non-critical traffic like bulk file transfers, use up all of their current capacity. More is needed, along with a mechanism for intelligently managing the many applications across the network.

Software defined WAN: The best way to open up lanes for your application traffic

Upgrading to an SD-WAN, such as a Talari Thinking SD-WAN, allows organizations to gain the control and oversight needed to trust business-critical applications to the cloud. Businesses can now treat the cloud like any other location on their WAN, which means access to SaaS applications and applications running in AWS is over a secure and reliable connection the IT team can manage, see, and control. This infrastructure ensures that migration of key applications to the cloud is seamless and easy, providing greater peace of mind for service sustainability.  Some cloud-specific benefits that Talari has to offer include:

  • Cloud-enabled – Delivers easy Cloud and SD-WAN integration via virtual appliances and cloud-based management platform.
  • Non-disruptive solution – Fits with existing WAN infrastructures – no rip and replace needed.
  • Adaptive access – Adjusts to the one-way conditions of the cloud access network, so traffic takes the best path in each direction.
  • High availability – Supports aggregation of broadband and AWS Direct Connect, ensuring the highest level of reliability and instantaneous failover.
  • Flexible architecture – Allows both direct cloud access from offices and backhaul to central data center architectures.

Beyond the cloud, a software defined WAN also empowers enterprises to scale and adapts their WANs to broad shifts in network traffic. Broadband Internet links can be integrated and smartly aggregated to offer the best possible path to important application traffic.

If a failover situation arises, the SD-WAN can also ensure that priorities are enforced. Even with so much more traffic running through WANs each day, the SD-WAN appliance protects mission-critical applications like VoIP and video from single points of failure and gives them plenty of cost-effective bandwidth – whether MPLS, broadband or both – to work with when connecting to cloud instances.

An SD-WAN is both scalable and adaptive. Businesses such as The Hain Celestial Group have been able to move on from having to share a single MPLS T1 connection among 50 users, to having a hybrid WAN that supports applications like SharePoint and VoIP. Network traffic, particularly from the cloud, may be increasing, but with an SD-WAN, you can keep yourself out of a jam.

Categories: Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN), Application Performance/Application Quality, IT Challenges, WAN to Cloud, Business Agility, Internet as WAN (MPLS Alternatives), Hybrid WAN