Network optimization is a touchy subject for many in the IT world, and a particularly thorny issue for the Wide Area Network (WAN). The idea that the network architecture as designed cannot meet the needs of tomorrow is the cause of much discussion, anxiety and in some cases, gnashing of teeth. However, the reality is that the rate of change of applications and ways the WAN is utilized is accelerating, and the methods of designing, testing, implementing and troubleshooting of today are not keeping pace. In addition, traditional services offered throughout the WAN only offer a partial view of the capabilities of what may be available.
Take, for example an application such as voice communication protocols, which may be subject to not only bandwidth constraints, but also issues such as packet delay and jitter. With traditional routing services in the WAN, Quality of Service can help prioritize voice traffic when there is bandwidth congestion, but there are no considerations as to whether that path along the network may be experiencing packet delay or jitter, or whether an alternate, unused path may offer a better path for optimized application traffic. To do so requires another set of traffic parameters, monitored along all paths, that can identify the best path, or perhaps multiple paths, for a particular application like voice traffic. The good news is that a service exists today to offer this capability in the WAN. The challenge is to add this into the already complex WAN environment and build architectures effectively to take advantage of these services without additional headcount or management overhead.
Cisco’s Performance Routing (PfR) is available today as part of Cisco’s recently announced Intelligent WAN (IWAN) solution, which incorporates advanced features to deliver better network intelligence and optimized application services into the WAN. The PfR suite of tools evaluate multiple paths for specific applications to either load balance or offer preferred path with backup as well as advanced monitoring of applications in the WAN. This happens above traditional routing protocols and unlike static definitions of paths through services such as Policy-Based Routing, dynamically changes paths across the WAN based on real-time, application-specific performance events within the WAN. However, implementing this feature throughout the WAN can be a long and arduous experience. Consider that some estimates for implementing a feature into the WAN can take more than 400 man-hours per event, and the idea of implementing, testing and managing an entirely new service such as PfR with traditional methods can be daunting.
Enter Glue Networks’ Gluware, which offers not only the capabilities of streamlining implementation of a service like PfR, but also managing the entire WAN through a proven orchestration and automation engine for the WAN. Gluware gives customers the ability to meet the challenge of increasing the services offered within the WAN without increasing overhead in time and manpower involved in managing complexity within the WAN. Gluware accomplishes this by acting as the expert system sitting above control plane services such as Cisco’s APIC Controller, onePK or traditional CLI. Gluware abstracts the WAN into customer-oriented policies that are tied into an industry-leading orchestration engine that combines customer WAN details with Cisco best practices to create a WAN profile that can be delivered to hundreds or thousands of routers. Upon first connection, Gluware creates a dialog with routers in the WAN to express customer WAN details into the router’s configuration. This dialog offers a full understanding of the elements provisioned and assurance that a WAN router is configured to incorporate policies as defined within Gluware. This process ensures there is a consistent network plane of services across the entire WAN, and in addition, future changes to the WAN become a trivial process. Gluware transforms what is traditionally a complex and time-consuming deployment process into an automated mechanism, allowing network architects to focus on design and architecture projects that build value in the WAN for the business, rather than maintaining an obsolete status quo.
So, what are the benefits of implementing services such as PfR through Gluware? The benefits are many, as outlined below:
- First, Gluware enables implementation of services such as PfR through an easy-to-use user interface, offloading the actual provisioning of services to Gluware’s orchestration engine.
- Second, Gluware meets the customer’s need to implement these services without added headcount or significant IT man-hours devoted to delivering this feature. The time involved in delivering a solution like PfR is focused on design and building good architectures, not deployment.
- Third, visualizing the PfR mechanism, which makes real-time decisions on pathing and load balancing can be challenging. Gluware can identify and alert on pre-defined events such as specific application thresholds being exceeded and path changes, offering valuable insight into traffic flows and changes in real time as well as historical tracking of PfR changes.
- Finally, leveraging Gluware allows network architects to meet the needs of the business through advanced IOS features like PfR, offering additional value in the Cisco WAN investment with new IWAN features without requiring a rip-and-replace strategy to capitalize on these features.
Performance Routing changes the adaptability and resilience of the WAN, building value through application intelligence and performance within the WAN. Coupled with Glue Networks’ Gluware, businesses can capitalize on a consistent network upon which new features give them an edge in delivering applications to last mile users that are coming to expect business-level services in the home office/branch office. Gluware eliminates the need for extended deployment cycles to realize the benefits of PfR, as well as other IOS features, giving network architects the room to focus on delivering business value with the WAN through advanced features, better transparency and compliance of the WAN. Cisco IWAN, when coupled with Glue Networks’ Gluware, enable customers to experience the joy of Performance Routing more quickly and with less risk, which is what we all are looking for in the WAN today.
If you are looking for an on-hands way of seeing this work, join the Glue and Cisco experts for a live demo via webinar on February 26th. You can find the details here:
Finally, resources on both Glue Networks and Cisco IWAN are available below. For further information, contact your local Glue Networks or Cisco representative.
- Gluware http://www.gluenetworks.com/videos
- Cisco APIC Controller and Glue Networks http://www.gluenetworks.com/blog
- Glue Networks’ IWAN support http://www.gluenetworks.com/products/iwan-app
- Glue Networks in the news: http://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickmoorhead/2014/01/28/glue-networks-cisco-systems-secret-weapon-for-wans/