Mobility and cloud innovations have been happening so fast that it’s easy to overlook the place where these technologies have the most impact – the branch. As Andres Sintes mentioned in his blog on Enabling the Branch for the Mobile Cloud Era, clearly understanding both the business and technical aspects of the evolution of the WAN will enable you to uncover many new opportunities to grow your business.
About 80 percent of all network users – employees and customers alike – access applications from branch sites. With a majority of customer interactions happening in branches, they are an area of huge competitive differentiation – for Cisco Partners and our customers. Here’s why:
Personalization is the new mantra for all types of businesses. From retail stores to hospitals to convention centers, virtually everyone wants to use customer intelligence to deliver better experiences and more targeted offers. They’re also gathering more customer details to continually refine this process.
This business intelligence – in the form of analytics – is being processed in real time. Which offer should each customer get? What did they buy last? Where are they in my venue? The ability to answer these questions on the fly can make the difference between a generic, ho-hum experience and a truly outstanding one that translates into increased wallet share, satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately, more customers. As these new analytics begin flowing through your customers’ WANs, bandwidth requirements will increase dramatically.
As organizations become global and win more customers, they have to adapt more quickly to new customer preferences. Translation – business and technology requirements change daily. This means customers need to offer on demand services that require more WAN agility than ever before. Rolling a truck to every site every time there’s a new service required is simply not quick or scalable enough.
Mobility – Every customer and employee in every branch has a mobile device, and on average there are 41 apps per device. Plus, every OS update requires gigabytes of data. No wonder mobile data traffic grew 81 percent in 2013 (source Cisco Visual Networking Index). If your customers are offering customer or employee Wi-Fi, their WAN traffic is expanding rapidly.
Cloud – about 20 percent of apps are now delivered via the cloud, and with another 20 percent of these apps migrating to the cloud annually, according to Gartner. The architectural implications of this cloud migration are enormous, particularly when you consider hybrid clouds and flexible, dynamic workloads that move according to business, security, performance, or scalability demands. Are your customer networks flexible and intelligent enough to handle these changes?
Security – Because they house so much great customer information, branches are increasingly targeted for advanced security threats. Gartner expects 30 percent of all security threats to be aimed at the branch by 2016.
SDN – Managing all the aforementioned changes on a box by box basis using CLI would be daunting, to say the least. WANs are by definition geographically dispersed, but that doesn’t mean they have to be managed that way.
The Cisco Intelligent WAN (IWAN) addresses all of these issues with a new approach to the changing business and technology landscape:
We now offer an application-centric approach instead of a network-based one. This means you can deliver better SLA’s for your customers’ most important apps, and apply a “best effort” status to lower priority ones.
Adding more links and bandwidth to address app performance issues can drive up operational costs and may not actually solve app performance problems. By offering a hybrid solution that can “load balance” between MPLS, 3G/4G and the public Internet, IWAN can add performance without adding circuits. In some cases the savings from avoiding extra MPLS links is substantial enough to pay for the WAN enhancements within one year.
Of course, using the public Internet for business traffic means more security. With DMVPN, Cisco Cloud Web Security, and Sourcefire now running on the UCS-E blade in the Cisco 4000 series Integrated Services Routers, you can now address advanced security threats. This threat-centric approach to security also reduces transport costs by enabling “split tunnels,” so you can offload web traffic locally for malware protection instead of backhauling it to a centralized data center.
We will also make WAN operations much simpler and faster by enabling centralized policies instead of a distributed box-to-box configuration model. With the Cisco APIC EN module, you can apply business rules to your customers’ entire WAN in just a few minutes, instead of managing VLAN’s, ACL’s, and other changes manually.