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A Brave New World for IT: Internet as WAN

Today’s IT organizations are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Most face an avalanche of new bandwidth requirements hitting their networks, yet too few resources to support the business’ needs.  In 2013, three out of four organizations will not have any additional wide area network (WAN) budget (Nemertes Research). That means 75% of IT teams will not be able to buy more bandwidth to address exponential traffic growth, and will need to re-think their entire approach to the network if they want stay successful.  Treading water will not be an option.

Here is a sampling of the trends that are challenging IT now:

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1. Applications are moving to the cloud (both private and public) with the centralization of apps in the data center and the emergence of software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps like Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Office365, and Google Docs. In fact, about half of CIOs expect to operate the majority of their applications and infrastructure in the cloud by 2016 (Gartner).

As applications move to the cloud, IT must deal with new traffic patterns across their network and more packets running across their WAN for longer distances. Even more challenging is the growing number of web-based applications which limit IT visibility and control. Web apps are notoriously difficult for IT to get visibility into and control over. Today, many IT organizations are not able to differentiate between YouTube traffic from Salesforce.com traffic, and therefore cannot prioritize one over the other.

2. The Internet edge is moving to the branch with the need to support split tunneling for guest access and direct access to SaaS applications. While direct Internet access from the branch would appear to be ideal, without  scalable security across every location it could leave your security risk wide open.

To avoid that, about 90% of organizations backhaul traffic through the data center to ensure a consistent security policy enforcement (Metzler 2011 and 2012 Application Services Handbooks). As a result, traffic that simply needs to get onto the Internet has to travel much farther, which puts more pressure on the WAN and hurts performance. Metlzer also states that by enabling direct Internet access at the branch, businesses not only enjoy better performance, but also IT is also able to lower WAN traffic by 60-70%, thereby lowering costs.

3. Business mobile devices, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and new guest access are straining both the corporate LAN (WiFi) and WAN.

Mobile traffic is expected to grow six times by 2015, and two-thirds of mobile traffic will be video (Cisco Visual Networking Index).  As more mobile devices are introduced into the corporate network environment, there will be more pressure on local WiFi and the WAN.

Also, many IT organizations may have overlooked the “mobile device tax” on their corporate networks – the increased processing demands caused by mobile application and security updates, back ups and data syncs. One recent example would be the millions of customers upgrading to Apple iOS7 in the past few weeks, putting an enormous strain on the corporate network.

4. High Bandwidth Apps – More and more, businesses rely on video conferencing, streaming video, and e-learning to support collaboration across their organization. Other bandwidth demanding apps, such as video surveillance and desktop virtualization are increasingly becoming mainstream.

Internet as WAN

While running your business over the Internet a few years back would have seemed unthinkable, things have really changed. The Internet, which had been previously viewed as a commodity transport, has seen dramatic improvements in bandwidth and price performance that have changed not only the speed of how we use the Internet, but the ways we use it as well.

Today, you can get up to 96.6% reliability over the Internet. While this still does not meet most business standards for down time, it has come a long, long way. And, if you add redundancy to your network design, you can dramatically increase the effective availability and diversity of your network to meet even the highest business requirements, up to five-nines reliablity.

Currently, nearly half (46 percent) of IT organizations have begun or are planning to move to Internet for WAN. (Nemertes Research). Why? Primarily because the pricing advantages are so huge, with costs typically 40-50% less than premium leaded lines (Telegeography). That translates to a lot more bandwidth for a lot less money, which allows IT to resolve the growing traffic pressure without additional budget resources. For example, a San Francisco based company with 100 remote sites could estimate nearly $1 million in savings per year. This is serious savings that can quickly cover the investment costs in no time.

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Re-think Your Network with Cisco Intelligent WAN (IWAN)

To help our customers enter this brave new world of Internet as WAN, Cisco is introducing IWAN powered by Cisco ISR-AX and ASR1000-AX routers. This solution allows customers to right-size their networks using any transport – including Internet – without compromising performance, reliability or security. Best of all, no one in the industry offers so many rich services at such an aggressive price to help accelerate customer adoption.

IWAN helps IT fully utilize their WAN investments, and avoid oversubscription of lines. Through Intelligent Path Selection technologies like Performance Routing (PfR), routing decisions are made dynamically by looking at application type, policies, and network path status. Now the growth of new cloud traffic, guest services, and video can be easily load-balanced across multiple lines. And, because PfR is integrated directly into IOS, no cumbersome external scripting or object tracking is required.

IWAN enables WAN transport independence, providing IT the flexibility to move to less expensive Internet transport options without compromising performance, reliability and security. Through Flex VPN and Cloud Web Security technologies, IT can directly connect any two locations without backhauling to the data center and can efficiently offload traffic onto the Internet while seamlessly scaling security policies to protect all branch office endpoints.

IWAN gives IT full visibility and control at the application level (Layer 7) through Application Visibility and Control (AVC) technologies like NBAR2, NetFLow, QoS and more. These technologies are pervasive on all ISR-AX and ASR1000-AX routers, giving IT professionals full network-wide visibility to determine what traffic is running across the network, allowing them to tune the network for business critical services and quickly resolve network issues as they arise.

IWAN minimizes any WAN burden using Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) to apply advanced compression and de-duplication to help applications perform better with the smallest load possible.

Using Cisco IWAN, business can:

  • Lower WAN costs that can pay for the infrastructure refresh, typically in 6-12 months
  • Free up resources so they can focus on other strategic projects and business opportunities
  • Simplify IT with a scalable one-box solution that can be remotely managed and avoid the costs of extra truck rolls for change management
  • Expand bandwidth availability to support cloud-based applications and rich network services like VDI, video and guest access
  • Increase business agility to bring up branch sites, migrate to cloud and rollout new services quickly
  • Improve employee productivity with an optimized user experience

Regardless of whether you are in the lucky 25% that continues to get additional WAN funding, or among the 75% that needs to do more with less, all IT organizations can benefit from the cost savings that Cisco IWAN offers.  With IWAN, IT can finally escape the “rock and hard place” position, and be more responsive to time-to-market needs and roll out new applications and services with confidence while freeing up resources for greater business innovation.

Find out how you can navigate this brave new world and get more out of your WAN at the Cisco IWAN website.

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