Before Making WAN Changes, Consider Your Bandwidth and Application Requirements
In part 1 of this 3-part series on how to conduct a wide-area network assessment and prepare for WAN updates, we looked at foundational issues such as current challenges and objectives. In this installment, we’ll examine considerations around applications and bandwidth.
As with part 1, my source for information was Mike Lawson, Manager of SD-WAN/NFV Solutions Architecture for CenturyLink. Lawson is in the trenches with network architects and customers every day; as such, he understands the issues that lead companies to upgrade WAN services to newer technologies such as software-defined WAN (SD-WAN).
Visibility Into Apps – Who’s Using What
The initial question revolves around the visibility and control you have into how your applications are using bandwidth across various locations.
“Typically, customers have some level of visibility, but the question is how easy it is to use and whether they’re getting the information they need,” Lawson says.
Smaller companies may have some understanding into the amount of bandwidth different applications are using, but it’s unlikely that they can determine which groups of users are watching YouTube between 3 and 4pm every day, and therefore taking up significant chunks of bandwidth
Another question is whether you can create policies to prevent situations where users chew up too much bandwidth. If companies have to piece together data from multiple monitoring tools, it’s highly unlikely they can implement such policies, Lawson says.
Newer technologies like SD-WAN let users pull data from multiple sources into a single console, Lawson explains. This makes it easier to control the network as a whole, including applying policies to determine bandwidth usage by application, time of day, and other parameters.
Assessing Bandwidth Requirements
Companies also need to determine whether they’re providing adequate capacity and performance for bandwidth-intensive or delay-intolerant applications such as voice-over-IP and videoconferencing.
“Ask yourself, how much dedicated and predictable capacity do you need for voice and video?” Lawson advises. “The goal is to right-size the network, so applications have what they need but you’re not paying for bandwidth you’re not using.”
As noted in part 1 of this series, that’s an issue with services like MPLS where companies often buy multiple lines for redundancy, but only use the higher cost additional capacity when there’s a failure in the primary line.
Consider, too, whether you have international locations that are difficult or expensive to reach with your current service provider. Last but not least, if you use multiple carriers, be sure to ask how you manage relationships with them.
“Dealing with multiple providers can chew up valuable cycles that most IT shops can’t afford to waste,” Lawson notes.
In the next (and last) installment of this series, we’ll look at security and network resiliency issues.
Find out how to transform your hybrid network with CenturyLink SD-WAN.
This articles was previously published on NetworkWorld on July 23, 2019.
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